Kremlin hands over body of Alexei Navalny to mother after days of resistance

The Russian government has turned over the body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to his mother, according to a top aide to Navalny.

Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, announced on Telegram Saturday that Russian authorities had turned over the body to the 47-year-old man’s family following cries from Navalny’s widow and the public.

“Thank you very much. Thanks to everyone who wrote and recorded video messages. You all did what you needed to do. Thank you. Alexei Navalny’s body has been given to his mother,” Zhdanov wrote in the post.

Russia’s action came hours after Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, accused President Vladimir Putin of insulting Christianity by not turning the body over and pushing her to agree to a private funeral. Navalnaya, who identifies as an Orthodox Christian, said Putin was violating religious protocols by holding the body hostage.

In a video posted Saturday, Navalny’s widow said his mother was being “literally tortured” by prison authorities who threatened to bury him on the penal colony grounds.

Navalny was the most outspoken opposition politician and died unexpectedly on Feb. 16 while detained in an Arctic penal colony. His death came just days before the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, has been in Salekhard, Russia, for the past week waiting for officials to turn over her son’s body. Western countries have slapped more sanctions on Putin in protest of his refusal to do so.

“Give us the body of my husband,” Navalnaya said Saturday. “You tortured him alive, and now you keep torturing him dead. You mock the remains of the dead.”

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“No true Christian could ever do what Putin is now doing with the body of Alexei,” the widow said. “What will you do with his corpse? How low will you sink to mock the man you murdered?”

A spokesman for the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, denied the family’s allegations and called them “absolutely unfounded.”

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