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Updated Feb 23, 2024, 10:45am EST

Alexei Navalny’s mother accuses Russia of forcing her to have a ‘secret funeral’ for her son

Alexei Navalny YouTube Channel/Handout via REUTERS
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Russian authorities have given Alexei Navalny’s mother an ultimatum over the burial of her son, a Navalny spokesperson wrote on X on Friday. “Either she agrees to a secret funeral without a public farewell within 3 hours, or Alexei will be buried in the colony,” Kira Yarmysh said.

Yarmysh added that Lyudmila Navalnaya had refused to negotiate, and was insisting that Russian authorities hand over the body to her now that they claim to have established a cause of death.

Navalnaya was able to see the body of her son on Wednesday evening, six days after his death in an Arctic penal colony. She said Thursday that Russian investigators had set conditions for “where, when, and how” Navalny should be buried, and alleged that they threatened her if she did not agree.

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“Looking into my eyes, they told me they’ll do something to my son’s body if I don’t agree to a secret funeral,” she said in a video posted on Navalny’s YouTube channel.

Navalnaya insisted that she would not agree to the conditions. “I want all of you who cherish Alexei, and for whom his death was a personal tragedy, to have a chance to say your goodbyes,” she said.

Russian authorities are concerned that ”Navalny’s funeral could turn into a political action,” a leading Russia expert, Andrei Kolesnikov, wrote on X.

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U.S. President Joe Biden met Navlany’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, and their daughter Dasha, in San Francisco Thursday, to express his condolences and “admiration” for Navalny’s “extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia,” the White House said. Biden announced 500 new sanctions against Russia in response to Navalny’s death on Friday.

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Navalny’s mother was shown a medical report which stated that he died of natural causes, a Navalny spokesperson said. Most Western leaders have held Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for his death, and people close to Navalny have suggested that he was killed in jail, where he was repeatedly placed in isolation and refused medical care after being arrested on trumped up charges.

Navalnaya was previously denied access to her son’s body after traveling to the morgue in Russia’s Far East where his body was believed to be held, and filed a lawsuit demanding the release of Navalny’s remains.

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Yulia Navalnaya has accused Russia of holding her husband’s body to wait for traces of “Putin’s Novichok” to dissipate, a reference to the nerve agent Russian agents used to poison him in 2020.

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