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Russia threatening to bury Alexei Navalny on ‘Polar Wolf’ prison grounds, team says

In World
February 23, 2024

“An hour ago, an investigator called Alexei’s mother and gave her an ultimatum,” Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“She has three hours to agree to a secret funeral without a public farewell, or Alexei will be buried in the colony.”

His mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, “refused to negotiate … because they have no authority to decide how and where to bury her son”, Yarmysh added.

She has now filed a lawsuit alleging the “desecration” of his body, said Ivan Zhdanov, an exiled ally of the late leader.

Navalny’s team have said the Kremlin is “scared” of the opposition leader even after his death. They believe the authorities do not want a public funeral as it would represent a show of support for Navalny’s movement against President Vladimir Putin.

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They previously called Putin a “killer” who was trying to cover his tracks by not allowing independent forensic analysis of Navalny’s body.

The US State Department announced on Friday it was imposing sanctions against three Russian officials over Navalny’s death in prison.

Those named include Valery Boyarinev, the deputy director of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service which oversaw the remote Arctic penal colony where Navalny died.

“You can expect more … with respect to holding the Kremlin accountable for Mr Navalny’s death,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and his lawyer Alexei Tsvetkov walk out of an office of the Investigative Committee’s regional department in the city of Salekhard, Russia, on Monday. Photo: Reuters

On Wednesday, Britain announced sanctions against six Russian officials at the IK-3 Arctic Penal Colony “Polar Wolf”, where Navalny died.

After days of being denied access, Navalny’s mother Lyudmila said on Thursday she had finally been allowed to see her dead son’s body. But she said the authorities were not willing to give her custody and wanted to bury him secretly.

More than 25 filmmakers, artists, Nobel Prize winners and opponents of Putin have so far called for his body to be released, in videos published by his team on social media.

They include Nobel Prize-winning editor Dmitry Muratov, protest rock band Pussy Riot member and activist Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, writer Victor Shenderovich and film director Andrey Zvyagintsev.

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“It’s awkward to talk about this in a country that considers itself to still be Christian. Just give Lyudmila Ivanovna her son … without any conditions,” Muratov said.

The authorities were trying to keep Navalny in solitary confinement even in death, he added – just as they had done for long stints of his three years in prison.

“Putin was scared of Navalny for many years during his life,” writer and long-time Putin critic Shenderovich said.

“Putin is scared of Navalny after his death – after he killed Navalny he’s still scared of him,” he added.

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