Feb 22, 2024 - World

Navalny's mother says authorities are blackmailing her to hold secret burial

A spontaneous memorial for Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburgh on Feb. 16.

A spontaneous memorial for Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg on Feb. 16. Photo: Artem Priakhin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The mother of former Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Thursday that authorities are attempting to pressure her into accepting a secret burial for her son, who died in prison last week.

Why it matters: A restricted funeral would prevent Navalny's family, allies and supporters from publicly mourning, and would represent yet another attempt by Russian authorities to reduce his influence, even after his death.

  • Hundreds of people across Russia have been arrested for publicly grieving Navalny's death at memorials in dozens of cities.

Driving the news: Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, said she has refused a secret burial and recorded a statement on Thursday because Russian authorities "started threatening me."

  • "Looking me in the eyes, they say that if I don't agree to a secret funeral, they will do something with my son's body," she said in the video, which was posted on Navalny's widow's social media account.
  • His mother said she believes the committee that's investigating Navalny's death and has custody over his body is receiving orders from the Kremlin or the country's national investigative authority.

She said authorities allowed her to see Navalny's body, which they would not release despite claiming to know his cause of death and signing his death certificate.

  • "According to the law, they should have given me Alexei's body immediately," she said. "Instead, they are blackmailing me, and telling me where, when and how Alexei should be buried."
  • On Wednesday, Navalnaya filed a lawsuit to force authorities to release her son's body. A closed-door hearing on the matter was scheduled for March 4.
  • Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's spokesperson, said on social media the medical record shown to his mother stated the cause of his death was "natural."

The big picture: The Kremlin has rejected international calls for an independent investigation into the circumstances of his death.

  • Navalny's allies and family have said they believe high-level Russian authorities were involved in his death, given his status as Russian President Vladimir Putin's foremost critic and the Kremlin-linked assassination attempt Navalny previously survived.
  • His allies warned repeatedly since he was jailed in 2021 on frivolous charges that authorities were holding him in appalling conditions while denying him medical attention.

Flashback: Boris Nemtsov, a liberal politician and the most vocal critic of Putin when he was assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015, was given a public burial in Moscow, which drew thousands of mourners.

Go deeper: Alexei Navalny's widow says she will continue his Russian opposition work

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