‘This Is What We’re Dealing With’: Megyn Reacts to the Death of Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny

AP Photo/Michael Probst

One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and outspoken domestic critics, Alexei Navalny, died on Friday. He was 47.

His death was announced by the Russian prison service and the exact cause remains unclear. The opposition leader had been imprisoned since returning to Russia from Germany where he was treated after being poisoned by a Soviet-era nerve agent in 2021.

On Wednesday’s show, Megyn was joined by National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke to discuss Navalny’s death and the warning it should serve as to the United States.

What Is Known

Navalny died on Friday at the IK-3 penal colony north of the Arctic Circle where he was serving a three-decade prison term. His death was announced by the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, which said he “felt unwell after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness.”

It is unclear where Navalny’s body is and Russian investigators have not yet confirmed what he died of. According to the notice given to his mother, he passed at 2:17pm local time from “sudden death syndrome.” The term can refer to any number of maladies that cause sudden cardiac arrest and death. 

The penal colony Navalny was incarcerated at is considered one of the toughest facilities in Russia’s brutal prison system, but he had recently appeared to be in good spirits. Reuters reported that Navalny was seen joking in court via a video link just the day before his death.

In a video posted on social media on Monday, Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya accused Putin of killing her husband and alleged that the refusal to hand over her husband’s body was part of a cover-up. Many world leaders, including President Joe Biden, have said they hold Putin responsible for the death.

The Makings of a Murder

Megyn said history makes it clear that “Putin has been after Navalny for some time now” and it was likely only a matter of time before he died. “He’s one of the few very, very brave men to challenge Putin in Russia and had quite a coalition of followers,” she explained. “He was poisoned. He went back to Russia willingly, knowing that they were going to put him in prison. And now suddenly, at age 47, he winds up dead mysteriously. It seems obvious to everyone that Putin was behind this.”

In Cooke’s view, Putin is to blame regardless of Navalny’s actual cause of death. “I’ve seen a little bit of debate over this, but ‘murdered’ is the right word,” he said. “I, of course, do not know what happened in that cell and I wouldn’t presume. But even if he died of neglect, even if it was his being in the cell for that long that led to his death, you still have to blame Vladimir Putin and the Russian government for putting him there.”

The discussion around what killed Navalny is, in Cooke’s estimation, semantics. “Whether or not he was actively killed a few days ago or whether this was the indirect result of him being put in that jail for a long period of time and treated badly, he was killed for his opposition and it is appalling,” he said. “Anyone in the United States or elsewhere who wonders ‘Well, maybe Vladimir Putin is not so bad’ needs to recognize this. This is a tyranny and the guy who stood up to Putin was killed – not incidentally but because he stood up to Putin.”

This behavior is nothing new. In addition to the dissenters who have been murdered before Navalny, Megyn recalled her own experience in the country. “When I interviewed Putin in Russia, we talked seriously about having a plane on standby because he has been known to kill journalists who get in the crosshairs of Vladimir Putin,” she recalled. “I mean, this was an actual discussion we had at NBC: How necessary is it, and how upset might he get?”

For those reasons, she said there should be no fondness for the Russian ruler. “This is what we’re dealing with over there,” she concluded. “There’s no reason to have a love affair with Vladimir Putin just because he’s not woke.”

You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Cooke by tuning in to episode 728 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.