Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial

Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial
Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - The mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison last week, said yesterday officials were pressuring her to agree to a secret burial for her son. — AFP pic

MOSCOW, Feb 23 — The mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison last week, said yesterday officials were pressuring her to agree to a “secret” burial for her son.

The Navalny case remained in the international spotlight with US President Joe Biden meeting the Russian politician’s widow and daughter, Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco yesterday.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critic, said she had been shown his body in a morgue in Salekhard, the nearest town to the remote prison, after several days of being refused access.

“Yesterday evening they secretly took me to the morgue where they showed me Alexei,” she said in a video released on social media by Navalny’s team.

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But she said investigators wanted her son, who was 47, to be buried “secretly, without a chance to say goodbye”.

“They are blackmailing me, they put conditions for where, when and how Alexei should be buried. This is illegal,” she said.

Navalny, whose death was announced last Friday, galvanised mass protests against Putin, winning popularity with a series of investigations into state corruption.

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He was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent in 2020, then jailed in 2021 after returning to Russia following a period of treatment in Germany.

He was sentenced to 19 years in prison on extremism charges and sent to IK-3, a harsh penal colony beyond the Arctic Circle known as “Polar Wolf”.

Western governments and Russian opposition figures have accused the Kremlin of being responsible for Navalny’s death on February 16.

Investigators ‘threatening’

Biden met privately with the Navalny’s widow and daughter “to express his heartfelt condolences for their terrible loss”, the White House said.

The White House also backed the mother’s campaign to retrieve Navalny’s body.

“The Russians need to give her back her son,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Personal tensions between Biden and Putin increased after the US leader called his Russian counterpart a “crazy SOB” an election campaign event late Wednesday.

Putin responded with his sarcasm, referring to his recent remark that he would prefer the more “predictable” Biden over Donald in the White House.

“He can’t of course say to me: Volodya, well done, thank you (for the endorsement), you’ve helped me a lot?” Putin said.

‘Fresh grave’

Hundreds of people have been detained in Russia in recent days at events to pay tribute to Navalny and his widow has vowed to continue his work.

Lyudmila Navalnaya travelled to Russia’s Far North the morning after Navalny’s death was announced, hoping to be able to see and retrieve her son’s body.

“They want to take me to the edge of a cemetery to a fresh grave and say: Here is where your son lies. I am against that.

“I want that for those of you for whom Alexei is dear, for everyone for whom his death became a personal tragedy, to have the possibility to say goodbye to him.”

She said she recorded the video because investigators were “threatening” her.

“Looking me in the eye, they said that if I do not agree to a secret funeral they’ll do something with my son’s body... I ask for my son’s body to be given to me immediately,” she said.

Navalny’s mother also said that investigators had told her they knew the cause of death but did not say what it was.

The Kremlin has refused to say when the body will be handed over and has branded Western accusations as “hysterical”.

Putin has remained silent on the death of his main political opponent.

Navalny’s spokesman Kira Yarmysh said that a medical report on the death shown to Lyudmila Navalnaya “stated that the cause of death was natural”. — AFP

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