Home World Russian Authorities Threaten to Bury Navalny on Prison Grounds, Aides Say

Russian Authorities Threaten to Bury Navalny on Prison Grounds, Aides Say

Russian Authorities Threaten to Bury Navalny on Prison Grounds, Aides Say


Russian authorities have warned Aleksei A. Navalny’s mother that if she doesn’t agree to a secret funeral, the late opposition campaigner will be buried by the state on prison grounds, according to Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, Mr. Navalny’s mother, was given three hours to agree to the ultimatum but she refused to negotiate, arguing that Russian authorities had no legal right to decide the time and place of her son’s burial, according to Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh.

“She is demanding compliance with the law, which requires investigators to hand over the body within two days, from the moment the cause of death is established,” Ms. Yarmysh said in a statement released on X. The two days expire on Saturday.

Mr. Navalny’s mother is “insisting the authorities allow a funeral and memorial service to be held in accordance with tradition,” Ms. Yarmysh added. It was unclear whether Russian authorities proceeded with burying the body on Friday after the deadline for the ultimatum had come and gone.

The ultimatum was the latest twist in a macabre saga, in which Mr. Navalny’s 69-year-old mother has been trying to retrieve her son’s body for nearly a week at an Arctic morgue in Russia, near the prison where he died.

The Kremlin has long portrayed Mr. Navalny as insignificant, with President Vladimir V. Putin even avoiding saying his name in public. But the struggle over his body suggested the opposite, as Russian authorities showed intense sensitivity to the possibility of a public funeral amid an overall crackdown on dissent.

Russian authorities have detained or arrested hundreds of the Mr. Navalny’s supporters in recent days, in some cases simply for laying flowers at memorials to mark his passing.

News of the ultimatum to his mother came as the United States announced a new round of sanctions against Moscow that designated three Russian penal officials overseeing the prison above the Arctic Circle where Mr. Navalny was being held.

The sanctions came a day after President Biden met Mr. Navalny’s widow and daughter in California and praised the Kremlin critic’s “legacy of courage.”

After the announcement of Mr. Navalny’s death on Feb. 16, his mother had to wait five days before Russian authorities showed her the body. On Thursday, she was shown a medical report that claimed he died of natural causes.

At that point, Ms. Navalnaya accused the authorities of “blackmailing” her and said they were refusing to release her son’s remains until she agreed to a secret funeral without a public goodbye.

In response, she filed a complaint with Russian authorities against the investigator handling the case, asking that he be charged under Article 244 of the Russian criminal code, which prohibits the desecration of a dead body, Mr. Navalny’s anti-corruption organization said Friday.

Russian authorities handling the post-mortem investigation of Mr. Navalny’s body are part of the same security apparatus that, according to the U.S. government, used the nerve agent Novichok to poison Mr. Navalny in 2020.

The standoff over the body has led to an outpouring of support for Mr. Navalny’s family by celebrities, who have released videos demanding that Russian authorities hand over his remains to his mother without any condition or delay.

The ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov, the Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich and the director Andrey Zvyagintsev were among those who released video messages.

“It is uncomfortable to even discuss this in a country that so far still considers itself Christian,” Dmitri A. Muratov, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Russian editor, said in a video.

“Just hand it over — and that’s it,” he added.

Mr. Navalny was seen on video in apparent good spirits the day before Russian authorities announced his death. In the footage, from a criminal court hearing, Mr. Navalny can be seen cracking a joke in comments to the judge overseeing one of the many criminal cases the Russian government had filed against him.

Mr. Navalny’s wife and aides have accused Mr. Putin of killing him, if not directly than by incarcerating him for three years under inhumane conditions. Since his most recent imprisonment began in 2021, he has spent more than a quarter of his time in solitary “punishment cells” known for their frigid temperatures.

Moscow has dismissed the accusations about Mr. Putin’s culpability, accusing Western leaders of jumping to conclusions and displaying anti-Russian bias.

Mr. Putin has made no mention of Mr. Navalny in the week since Russian prison authorities announced the death. He has made multiple public appearances, including a publicity stunt on Thursday, in which he went for a ride in a nuclear-capable strategic bomber.

The head of Mr. Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation, Ivan Zhdanov, who has left Russia, released a video on Friday appealing directly to members of the Russian security services.

“You can’t argue that there are basic universal human principles — that you can’t blackmail a mother with the body of her child, while telling her terrible things that can happen,” Mr. Zhdanov said. “This contradicts your duty. Those who are doing this are extremely disgusting.”

He accused Russian authorities of doing so under Mr. Putin’s orders.

“They are blackmailing a woman who lost the most valuable thing she had — her son,” he said.

He reiterated an appeal for information about the circumstances of Mr. Navalny’s death and promised an reward to anyone with important information.


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