Odessa Rae, US producer of the Oscar-winning documentary Navalny, recalls her friend Alexei Navalny, who died on Friday

We always knew it was a threat – but for this to actually happen, right now, is very unexpected. A lot of people ask why Alexei felt he had to go back to Russia, because they don’t understand his circumstances and the times. For him, to sit in Germany would have been death itself, because every Russian opposition leader, like Khodorkovsky, who tried to operate from outside Russia, became irrelevant in Russia. Russians would say: “How dare you speak to us from there? Why should we listen to you sitting comfortably in Germany?”

Alexei’s life’s purpose was to change that country. He’d say: “Odessa, I never left”, because he was put on a plane to Germany when he was in a coma. He never had the intention of leaving Russia because he knew leaving would be the death of his purpose. So there was no choice but to return to Russia and continue his work.

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