Navalny’s body handed over to his mother

Henry

The body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been handed over to his mother, more than a week after he died in an Arctic prison colony, his team said on Saturday.

Navalny, pres. Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, died on February 16 in one of Russia’s worst prisons in northern Siberia.

He served 19 years in prison on charges dismissed by Putin’s critics as “political retaliation for his opposition activity”.

“Alexei’s body has been handed over to his mother,” said a spokesperson for Navalny’s team, Kira Yarmysh, on X (Twitter). “Many thanks to everyone who claimed it with us.”

Russian officials refused to hand over the body to Lyudmila Navalnaya for a week. She traveled from Salekhard in the Yamalo-Nenets region, the closest settlement to the prison colony where Navalny died, to receive his body.

Navalny’s team said on Friday that they had filed a lawsuit to receive his body. They accused local officials of threatening to bury him on the prison’s grounds if his mother did not agree to a “secret burial”.

Plans for the funeral were not yet clear Saturday, Yarmysh added.

“Lyudmila is still in Salekhard. The funeral is still pending,” she said. “We don’t know if the authorities will interfere if we carry it out as the family wants and as Alexei deserves.”

His team has already argued that the Kremlin is trying to prevent a public funeral. (A public funeral) could be a sign of support for Navalny’s movement and his opposition to Putin.

The Russian leader, who never mentioned Navalny’s name in public, has yet to comment on his death. His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, condemned statements by Navalny’s wife and Western leaders as “vulgar” blaming Putin for his death.

Russian authorities said Navalny died of “natural causes” after he lost consciousness after taking a walk in the prison colony, also known as “Poolwolf”.

His team condemned officers’ initial refusal to release the body. For days they even refused to let his mother see his body. Navalny’s team said officers were trying to “cover their tracks”.

In a statement on Saturday, G7 leaders “credited Navalny for his fight against the Kremlin’s corruption” and also requested the truth.

“We call on the Russian government to disclose the circumstances surrounding his death,” reads the statement from the G7 countries: the USA, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada.

Tens of thousands of Russians signed a petition requesting that Navalny’s body be released. Dozens of high-profile Russian cultural figures published video messages with the same request.

Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s widow, continued her attack on Putin on Saturday for his role in her husband’s death and the initial refusal to release his body.

“You tortured him when he was alive, and now you torture him after he died,” Yulia said in a video shared on Saturday. “What Putin is doing now is hateful. No, not even hateful, it’s a type of Satanism.”

She undertook to continue her husband’s work.

Navalny’s death comes three years after he was held in Russian prisons. This caused an uproar among the country’s opposition and Western leaders with impromptu demonstrations in cities in Europe.

Police in Russia arrested hundreds of mourners at makeshift memorials. More than 150 people were given short sentences.

Navalny gained notoriety for his anti-corruption campaign. He revealed Putin’s “unearned gains” in YouTube videos viewed by millions.

He was arrested in January 2021 when he returned to Russia after being treated for poisoning in Germany. He was poisoned when he campaigned against Putin in Siberia months before.