Alexei Navalny's body handed over to his mother, says aide to Russian opposition leader

Author: Editors Desk Source: CBC News:
February 25, 2024 at 06:30
People walk past a poster of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Milan, Italy, on Saturday. Navalny died in a Russian Arctic prison on Feb. 16. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)
People walk past a poster of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Milan, Italy, on Saturday. Navalny died in a Russian Arctic prison on Feb. 16. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)
Widow had accused Putin of having 'fake' Christian faith for delay

The body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died suddenly and unexpectedly in prison last week, has been handed over to his mother, his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh wrote on the social media platform X on Saturday.

Yarmysh said she did not know if the authorities would allow a funeral to be held "the way the family wants and the way Alexei deserves."

Navalny, 47, Russia's most well-known opposition politician, died on Feb. 16 in an Arctic penal colony, prompting hundreds of Russians across the country to stream to impromptu memorials with flowers and candles. His aides and family have alleged that the Kremlin murdered him, an allegation the Kremlin has rejected.

His mother Lyudmila said on Friday that Russian investigators were refusing to release his body from a morgue in the remote Arctic city of Salekhard until she agreed to lay him to rest without a public funeral.

A man holds a placard in a public square.
People hold portraits Navalny as they gather to pay their tribute during a candle vigil in downtown Zagreb, Croatia, on Friday. (Damir Sencar/AFP/Getty Images)

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

Russians on social media have said that officials did not want to return Navalny's body to his family because they fear a public show of support for him.

Earlier Saturday, his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, demanded that Russian authorities release his body for burial and accused a "demonic" Russian President Vladimir Putin of "torturing" his corpse.

In a six-minute video posted on YouTube, Navalnaya accused Putin of holding her husband's body "hostage," and questioned Putin's often-professed Christian faith.

In the video, an emotional Navalnaya claimed that Putin personally was responsible for the whereabouts of Navalny's body, and that he was "torturing" Navalny in death as he had in life.

WATCH | What Navalny wanted supporters to do if he died: 'Get back to work'

In Daniel Roher’s documentary, Alexei Navalny told his supporters his death would be a sign of the opposition’s strength. The Canadian director told The National’s Ian Hanomansing Navalny would want his supporters not to mourn his death, but fight Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We already knew that Putin's faith was fake. But now we see it more clearly than ever before," said Navalnaya, dressed in black.

"No true Christian could ever do what Putin is now doing with Alexei's body."

"You tortured him alive, and now you keep torturing him dead. You mock the remains of the dead," Navalnaya said.

Since returning to the Russian presidency in 2012, Vladimir Putin has positioned himself as a defender of traditional, conservative values against what he portrays as corrosive Western liberalism.

He has also trumpeted his closeness to Russia's Orthodox Church, regularly appearing at services around religious festivals, and speaking of his personal faith.Before his death, Alexei Navalny was the most visible symbol of the opposition to Vladimir Putin in Russia. Now, the opposition is in a precarious state. Matt Galloway speaks with Navalny’s friend and Putin critic Boris Akunin, a celebrated Russian author; and political scientist Jan Matti Dollbaum, co-author of Navalny.

Navalnaya said her husband had been a devout Christian, who attended church and had fasted for Lent even while in prison. She said his political activism had been inspired by Christian values.

Concluding her video, she said: "Give us back the body of my husband. We want to hold a funeral service and bury him in a humane way, in the ground, as is customary in Orthodox Christianity."

Authorities have detained scores of people as they seek to suppress any major outpouring of sympathy for Putin's fiercest foe before the presidential election he is almost certain to win next month.

WATCH | Sentiments in Russia don't favour Putin, exiled novelist says: 

Boris Akunin, the pen name of novelist Grigori Chkhartishvili, is an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a longtime friend of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died at a Russian penal colony on Feb. 16. He spoke to CBC News on the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

With files from The Associated Press

You did not use the site, Click here to remain logged. Timeout: 60 second