Putin likely didn’t order Navalny’s death, says US intelligence official: report

Russian President Vladimir Putin likely did not order the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

Navalny died in a Russian prison in February, and foreign leaders quickly pinned blame on Putin for what was believed to be a political assassination. The official told the Journal that Putin is still ultimately responsibly for Navalny’s death, but likely was not aware of the timing or nature of it, or directly ordered it.

The viewpoint, reportedly commonly held between U.S. intelligence agencies, states that  investigations have not found a “smoking gun” of Putin’s involvement.

President Biden sharply denounced Putin after Navalny’s death, holding him responsible but not claiming that he directly ordered a killing, instead saying the details were unknown.

“Reports of his death, if they’re true, and I have no reasons to believe they’re not — Russian authorities are going to tell their own story,” Biden said in remarks from the White House at the time.

“But make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible. What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled,” he continued.

Russian officials have said only that Navalny died of natural causes and have vehemently denied involvement in his death.

Just weeks after Navalny’s death, Putin won a fifth term in nationwide elections.

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