Navalny's mother says Russian officials forcing her to hold a secret burial

She met her son's body at the morgue where she signed a death certificate

Alexei-navalny-mother-appeal-ap Lyudmila Navalnaya

The mother of Russian President Vladimir Putin's critic Alexei Navalny finally saw her son's body at a morgue on Thursday where she signed the death certificate.

According to Navalny's press secretary, a medical report presented to  Lyudmila Navalnaya stated he died of natural causes. His family alleges Navalny was killed by Russian authorities.

In a video statement from the Arctic city of Salekhard, Lyudmila Navalnaya said investigators allowed her to see her son's body in the city morgue. However, they were forcing her to hold a secret burial, which she is resisting. She added that she continued to seek Navalny's body 

"They are blackmailing me, they are setting conditions where, when and how my son should be buried," she said. They want it to do it secretly without a mourning ceremony and she was being "blackmailed". She alleged authorities were setting conditions for the burial of her son, including the place, time and manner of his burial.

"They want to take me to the outskirts of the cemetery to a fresh grave and say: 'Here lies your son.'" 

"Looking into my eyes, they say that if I do not agree to a secret funeral, they will do something with my son's body." She said she was told by investigators: "Time is not on your side, the corpse is decomposing."

Navalnaya travelled to the northern Russian town of Salekhard after learning about her son's death in a nearby penal colony. She alleged she was being denied access to her son's body and she appealed to Putin directly to allow her to bury him.

She has filed a lawsuit at a court in Salekhard contesting officials' refusal to release her son's body. A closed-door hearing has been scheduled for March 4. Navalny, Russia's most well-known opposition politician, suddenly died in an Arctic prison last week. 

Meanwhile,  US President Joe Biden met Mr Navalny's widow Yulia and his daughter Dasha Navalnaya in San Francisco. "The president expressed his admiration for Alexei Navalny's extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia," the White House said in a statement.


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