Navalny’s body handed over by Russian authorities to his mother

Navalny’s family had said Russian authorities were withholding his body after he died at a penal colony last week.

FILE - Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny gestures while speaking to a crowd during a political protest in Moscow, Russia on July 20, 2019. Associates of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny say he has been located at a prison colony above the Arctic Circle nearly three weeks after contact with him was lost. Navalny, the most prominent foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)
Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny died last week in a Russian Arctic penal colony while serving a 19 year sentence [File: Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo]

The body of Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny has been handed over to his mother, his spokesperson and an aide have said.

“Alexey’s body was given to his mother. Many thanks to all those who demanded this with us,” Navalny spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said on X on Saturday.

The details of his funeral arrangements are yet to be determined, Yarmysh said, and it is unclear whether authorities will interfere.

Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, also confirmed the news on his Telegram account, and thanked “everyone” who had called on Russian authorities to return the body.

“Thank you very much. Thanks to everyone who wrote and recorded video messages. You all did what you needed to do. Thank you. Alexey Navalny’s body has been given to his mother,” Zhdanov wrote.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, had earlier demanded the release of his body for burial, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of mocking Orthodox Christian values and “torturing” his corpse.

“You tortured him alive, and now you keep torturing him dead. You mock the remains of the dead,” she said in a video message to Putin.

Navalny, a 47-year-old widely seen as the most prominent opposition voice in Russia, died on February 16 in a maximum-security Arctic penal colony while serving a 19-year sentence on charges of “extremism”.

Many world leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and US President Joe Biden, denounced Navalny’s death, saying it was clear that Russia was responsible, with many specifically blaming the Russian president.

However, Russia has denied any responsibility, saying that he had died of natural causes. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the allegations “absolutely unfounded, insolent accusations about the head of the Russian state”.

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, had said Russian investigators were pressuring her to bury her son in “secret” at a private ceremony without mourners. She is currently still in the Arctic region, Yarmysh said, having travelled there to demand the release of her son’s body.

Navalny’s aides said the authorities had threatened to bury him in the prison colony where he died unless his family agreed to their conditions.

“They want to take me to the far end of the cemetery to a fresh grave and say: ‘Here lies your son’,”  his mother said in a video posted on YouTube on Thursday. “I’m not agreeing to that.”

Source: Al Jazeera