Kremlin threatens to let Navalny body rot unless he is buried in secret, claims family

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Russian authorities have said Alexei Navalny died of “natural causes” and are threatening to let his body decompose unless he is buried in secret, according to his family.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, Navalny’s mother, said officials in Salekhard, the city in northern Russia where his body is being kept in the morgue, told her they would only release it to her if she agreed to bury him without a funeral.

In a video posted on YouTube on Thursday, Navalnaya said she had been allowed to see her son’s body and a death certificate, but claimed officials had only promised to release his remains if she agreed to their conditions.

“They want to take me to the far end of the cemetery to a fresh grave and say: ‘Here lies your son.’ I’m not agreeing to that,” she said.

Navalny’s wife and exiled team have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering the death and hinted that Navalny could have been poisoned with novichok, the nerve agent used in an attempt on his life in 2020.

But the death certificate said he died of “natural causes,” according to Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman.

Navalny, Putin’s most prominent opponent, died last Friday, aged 47, in a maximum-security penal colony in Kharp, a remote town in the Arctic Circle.

Russia’s penitentiary service has said he died suddenly after falling ill during a walk in the prison yard, and have not released any other information about his death to the public.

The Kremlin has allowed only limited coverage of Navalny’s death on state television news. Meanwhile, police have arrested nearly 400 people in dozens of cities across Russia who laid flowers in his memory at monuments to Soviet-era political prisoners last weekend.

Lyudmila Navalnaya said one official told her they would let her son’s body rot if the family did not agree to their demand, which she suggested was a Kremlin-directed attempt to prevent a similar outpouring of grief at his funeral.

One investigator told her: “Time’s not on your side. The body is decomposing,” according to Navalnaya.

“I want you — the people who hold Alexei dear, for whom his death was a personal tragedy — to have a chance to pay your respects to him,” Navalnaya said. “They are looking me in the eye and saying that if I don’t agree to a secret funeral, they will do something with my son’s body.”

Putin has not commented on Navalny’s death. The president is set to cruise to a fifth term in office, extending his 24-year rule to at least 2030, at elections next month against a token trio of candidates from Kremlin-run opposition parties.

The Kremlin and Russian investigators, who are in charge of an inquest into his death, did not immediately comment on Navalnaya’s accusations.

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