Alexei Navalny’s body returned to mother eight days after death

A portrait of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny among floral tributes and a candle outside the Russian embassy in Berlin, Germany, on Saturday
A portrait of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny among floral tributes and a candle outside the Russian embassy in Berlin, Germany, on Saturday - FILIP SINGER/SHUTTERSTOCK
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Russia’s authorities have returned the body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to his mother, eight days after he suddenly died in an Arctic prison.

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman, said that his body had been handed over after pressure from thousands of people.

“Alexei’s body was given to his mother. Thank you very much to everyone who demanded this with us,” she said. “The funeral is yet to come. We don’t know whether the authorities will interfere with carrying this out the way the family wants and as Alexei deserves.”

Earlier on Saturday, Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s widow, had released a video begging for his body to be released for burial.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, Alexei Navalny's mother, and lawyer Vasily Dubkov arrive at the regional department of Russia's Investigative Committee in Salekhard on Feb 17
Lyudmila Navalnaya, Alexei Navalny's mother, and lawyer Vasily Dubkov arrive at the regional department of Russia's Investigative Committee in Salekhard on Feb 17 - MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS

She accused Vladimir Putin of “Satanism” for keeping hold of the body.

“We already knew that Putin’s faith was fake,” she had said in the video filmed and produced outside Russia. “No true Christian could ever do what Putin is doing now.”

The Orthodox faith stipulates that certain prayers and rituals need to be carried out with a body nine days after death.

The Arctic prison that Navalny had been imprisoned in had said that he had died suddenly on Feb 16 after feeling ill during a short walk, but no independent autopsy has been carried out.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, Navalny’s mother, has been in the Arctic town of Salekhard since he died, asking police to release the body.

Vladimir Putin at the Orthodox Easter service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, on April 24 2022. The widow of Alexei Navalny accused the president of mocking Christianity by trying to force his mother to agree to a secret funeral
Vladimir Putin at the Orthodox Easter service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, on April 24 2022. The widow of Alexei Navalny accused the president of mocking Christianity by trying to force his mother to agree to a secret funeral - ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AP

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation had said that the Kremlin had given his mother an ultimatum to agree to a private burial or to a secret state burial. What the authorities didn’t want, Navalny’s colleagues had said, was a public funeral that could be used as a flashpoint for anti-Kremlin sentiment.

His sudden death sparked the most widespread protests in Russia since a mobilisation order in September 2022 for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Although the protests were small in scale, they took place in most cities across the country. Protesting in Russia against the Kremlin is banned.

Western leaders have accused Putin of killing Navalny, although his spokesman has denied this. He was regarded as Putin’s most dangerous opponent in his 23-year rule and was facing three decades in prison for various supposed corruption crimes that his allies said were fabricated.

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