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Navalny's team says mother given 'ultimatum' over burial

Published February 23, 2024last updated February 23, 2024

Alexei Navalny's mother has been told her son will be buried at the Arctic penal colony where he died unless she agrees to a closed funeral, according to Navalny's spokesperson.

Navalny memorial in Helsinki, Finland
Russian authorities have tried to suppress any major outpouring of sympathy for NavalnyImage: LEHTIKUVA/REUTERS

Russian authorities told the mother of late opposition figure Alexei Navalny that he would buried at the Arctic penal colony where he died unless she agreed within three hours to forgo a public funeral, his spokesperson said Friday.

"An hour ago, an investigator called Alexei’s mother and gave her an ultimatum. Either she agrees within three hours to a secret funeral without a public farewell, or Alexei will be buried in the penal colony," Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said.

Yarmysh said Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, was continuing with a demand that her son's body be handed over to her. 

Lyudmila was allowed see Navalny's body at the morgue in Salekhard, the town near the prison colony where Navalny died, on Thursday, after days of being denied access.

She had accused Russian investigators of pressuring her to hold a "secret" funeral, saying they were blackmailing her and setting the conditions of his burial.

Russia pressures Navalny's mother for secret funeral

Navalny's mother fights for her son's body

Navalny's mother has filed a lawsuit at a court in Salekhard contesting officials' refusal to release the opposition politician's body. She has also appealed to Russian leader Vladimir Putin to release her son's remains so she could bury him with dignity.

Lyudmila said in a video released Thursday that she had spend nearly 24 hours at the Salekhard office of the Investigative Committee, where officials told her they had determined Navalny's cause of death and have the paperwork ready, but she had to agree to a private funeral.

Navalny's death, announced on February 16, has deprived the Russian opposition of its best-known and inspiring politician less than a month before an election that is set to give Putin another six years in power.

About 400 people have been detained across Russia as they tried to pay tribute to him with flowers and candles, according to OVD-Info, a Russian group that monitors political arrests.

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EU, US impose fresh sanctions on Russia

Meanwhile, the European Union and United States on Friday imposed new sanctions on Russia on the eve of the second anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and following the news of Navalny's death.

The European Union targeted nearly 200 entities and individuals accused of helping Russia procure weapons or involvement in kidnapping Ukrainian children. 

US President Joe Biden said Washington was imposing more than 500 new sanctions to "ensure Putin pays an even steeper price for his aggression abroad and repression at home." 

US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told journalists the sanctions were "just the start," and that more measures were planned "with respect to holding the Kremlin accountable for Mr. Navalny's death."

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rm/nm (Reuters, AFP)