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Navalny’s widow accuses Kremlin of hiding his body to cover up killing him

In Europe
February 19, 2024

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny‘s widow accused the Kremlin on Monday of hiding his body to cover up killing him in an Arctic penal colony.

Vowing to continue her late husband’s fight against President Vladimir Putin, Yulia Navalnaya called on Russians to rally around her in a lengthy video address.

Her comments came as Navalny’s team said his mother and lawyers were denied access to his body and told the probe into what killed him had been extended, with the body under “chemical examination” for another 14 days.

“Three days ago, Vladimir Putin killed my husband,” Navalnaya, 47, said in a nine-minute video posted to YouTube ahead of her meeting with European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. She said authorities were waiting for traces of “yet another Putin’s Novichok” to leave his body — referring to the military nerve agent used to poison him years ago.

The Kremlin has denied involvement in that poisoning and dismissed suggestions that Putin was behind his death on Friday.

Navalnaya vowed to continue her husband’s efforts to secure a free Russia.

“We know exactly why Putin killed Alexei three days ago. We will tell you soon about it. We will also definitely find out who exactly and how exactly this crime was committed. We will name names and show faces,” she said in the video.

“The most important thing we can do for Alexei and for ourselves is to continue to fight,” she added.

“I will continue the life work of Alexei Navalny,” Navalnaya said. “I call on you to stand with me.”

Russia’s prison authorities said Navalny died suddenly after collapsing following a walk in the remote “Polar Wolf” prison on Friday afternoon.

The news sparked outrage, with many international leaders pointing the finger at Putin while Russia’s scattered opposition reeled from the loss of one of the Kremlin’s fiercest foes. Moscow has derided the West’s response and urged the world to wait for the results of an official investigation into his death.

But Navalny’s supporters have dismissed the official version of events.

And on Monday morning, spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said that Navalny’s mother and his lawyers had been denied access to the nearby morgue. The group were told that the probe into his cause of death had been extended and it was unclear how long it would take, she said.

“They were not allowed to go in. One of the lawyers was literally pushed out. When the staff was asked if Alexey’s body was there, they did not answer,” Yarmysh said in a series of posts on X. The drama centered on the Arctic town of Salekhard, where prison officials said over the weekend his body had been taken, according to Yarmysh.

The country’s main investigative body, the Investigative Committee, told the group that “The cause of death is still ‘unknown,'” Yarmysh said. “They lie, buy time for themselves and do not even hide it,” she added.

Later, Yarmysh said that “the investigators told the lawyers and Alexey’s mother that they would not give them the body. The body will be under some sort of “chemical examination” for another 14 days.”

Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia's prison agency said. (AP)

Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. (AP)

There were no immediate updates Monday from the Investigative Committee about the state of the investigation or when the body can be handed over.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said during his daily call with reporters that the investigation was ongoing, but there were no results yet. He reiterated that “frankly boorish” accusations blaming the Kremlin for Navalny’s death while there are still no conclusions were “unacceptable.”

He said questions about when Navalny’s body could be handed back to his family were also not for the Kremlin to answer.

Navalny, 47, was serving a combined 30 ½-year jail sentence when he died. He was recently transferred to the prison above the Arctic Circle, where conditions were harsh and his allies worried about his health and frequent isolation in the punishment cell.

However, his family said he appeared in good health prior to his death, and video footage from a court appearance the day before he died show Navalny cracking jokes and looking healthy.

Navalny Tribute Arrests Moscow (Alexander Nemenov / AFP via Getty Images)

Navalny Tribute Arrests Moscow (Alexander Nemenov / AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, people across Russia have been laying flowers, candles and photos of Navalny at their local memorials for the victims of Stalin-era repressions.

Russian media reported that authorities in some regions had been periodically clearing makeshift commemorations and police had been detaining people, seemingly at random. OVD-Info, an independent rights group that tracks detentions at protests, said that as of Monday 389 people had been detained in nearly 40 cities across Russia for trying to commemorate Navalny.

The Kremlin has intensified its crackdown on dissent since the war in Ukraine, so even just laying flowers at a memorial could be perceived as criminal by law enforcement and lead to detention or even jail time.

Russian propaganda, meanwhile, pushed the line that Navalny’s death was in the interests of the West, and some Kremlin hawks have even suggested, without providing evidence, that the West could be behind his death.

Putin, who is up for re-election next month, had yet to comment on Navalny’s death. Asked about Putin’s reaction to the news, spokesperson Peskov said Monday he had nothing to add.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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