Navalny's body released to his mother after she refused to negotiate over funeral ultimatum

By Isaac M February 24, 2024

The body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been handed over to his mother, his spokesperson has said.

“Alexei’s body was given to his mother. Thank you very much to everyone who demanded this with us,” Kira Yarmysh wrote on X.

Details of his funeral were yet to come, she said, adding it was unclear if the Russian authorities would “interfere” or if it would be carried out as “the family wants and Alexei deserves”.

“We will provide information as it becomes available,” she said.

Mr Navalny’s mother Lyudmila Navalnaya was given an ultimatum yesterday, with officials saying the Kremlin critic would be buried in the penal colony where he died unless she agreed within three hours to lay him to rest without a public funeral.

Ms Navalnaya refused to negotiate with investigators because “they do not have the authority to decide how and where she should bury her son”, Ms Yarmysh said.

Mr Navalny was the most well known critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and campaigned against official corruption. He also led major anti-Kremlin protests.

His death in the penal colony on 16 February prompted mourners across Russia to attend memorials with flowers and candles. Hundreds were arrested.

While the cause of his death remains unknown, Western leaders including US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have made clear they hold Mr Putin responsible.

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From 22 February: Alexei Navalny’s mother shares update on son’s body.

Mr Navanly’s widow Yulia Navalnaya and his mother also blame the Russian regime for the death of the 47-year-old activist.

Earlier on Saturday, Yulia Navalnaya accused Mr Putin of mocking Christianity by trying to force Mr Navalny’s mother to agree to a secret funeral for her son.

“No true Christian could ever do what Putin is now doing with the body of Alexei,” she said, adding: “What will you do with his corpse? How low will you sink to mock the man you murdered?”

The widow also said in a video released on Saturday that his mother had been “literally tortured” by officials who threatened to bury her son in the Arctic prison.

She said the authorities suggested to Mr Navalny’s mother that she didn’t have much time to make a decision because his body was decomposing.

“Give us the body of my husband,” Ms Navalnaya said. “You tortured him alive, and now you keep torturing him dead. You mock the remains of the dead.”

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FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia attend a hearing at the Lublinsky district court in Moscow, Russia, April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo
Image:
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia attend a Moscow court hearing in 2015

On Thursday his mother said investigators had allowed her to see her son’s body in the morgue in the Arctic city of Salekhard.

She filed a lawsuit at a court in Salekhard contesting officials’ refusal to release the body, and a closed-door hearing had been scheduled for 4 March.

On Friday, Mr Navalny’s daughter Dasha shared a photo of her with her parents as a child, and the message: “I love you, kiss you, hug you tightly, and miss you very, very much.”

It was her first direct tribute to her father since his death was confirmed a week ago.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected allegations that Mr Putin was involved in Mr Navalny’s death, calling them “absolutely unfounded, insolent accusations about the head of the Russian state”.

Saturday marks nine days since the opposition leader’s death, a day when Orthodox Christians hold a memorial service.

Residents of several Russian cities came out to mark the occasion and honour Mr Navalny’s memory by leaving flowers at public monuments or holding one-person protests.

At least 27 had been detained in nine Russian cities by 12.45pm local time on Saturday, according to the OVD-Info rights group.

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