Alexei Navalny's body handed over to his mother more than a week after his death

Rain drops cover a portrait of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, placing between flowers in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin, Feb. 21, 2024.
Rain drops cover a portrait of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, placing between flowers in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin, Feb. 21, 2024. Copyright AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
By Alice TideyAP
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Alexei Navalny's team and family have accused the Russian authorities of hiding his body in a bid to hide the real cause of death.

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The body of Alexei Navalny has been handed over to his mother, the spokesperson of the late Russian opposition leader confirmed on Saturday, more than a week after he died in a penal colony.

"Lyudmila Ivanovna is still in Salekhard. The funeral is still pending. We do not know if the authorities will interfere to carry it out as the family wants and as Alexei deserves," Kira Yarmysh added on X, formerly Twitter.

Navalny, 47, died unexpectedly on Feb 16 in the penal colony in the Arctic Circle where he had been serving a 19-year sentence on charges of "extremism".

But his family was initially denied access to his body with different authorities giving conflicting statements as to where he had been transferred. They then said last Saturday that his body would only be released after the results of a "histological examination" would be made available.

Yarmysh had said at the time that the authorities were "driving us around in circles and covering their tracks."

Lyudmila Navalnaya was finally able to see her son's body in the morgue on Thursday. She accused the authorities in a video statement of trying to blackmail her to agree to a secret burial

Western countries have put the blame for the Kremlin critic's death firmly on the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin with new sanctions on Russian officials unveiled by the UK and US. The EU also renamed its human rights sanctions regime after Navalny.

The Kremlin has categorically rejected such accusations with spokesman Dmitry Peskov describing them as “absolutely unfounded, insolent accusations about the head of the Russian state."

A medical certificate handed to Navalny's mother stated the politician had died of "natural causes".

Russian authorities meanwhile cracked down on any spontaneous display of support for Navalny with as many as 400 people detained nationwide the weekend after his death for attending makeshift memorials in his honour.

About 30 more were detained this Saturday in nine Russian cities for showing support for Navalny, according to the OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests.

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