Navalny’s mother accuses Russian officials of blackmail after seeing his body

The mother of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Thursday she was allowed to see his body, about a week after he died.

Lyudmila Navalnaya said in a video message taken from the city of Salekhard, Russia, that investigators let her see her son’s body in the city’s morgue. She also accused investigators of trying to force her into a private funeral for her son, who died in a Russian prison last week where he was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism.

“They are blackmailing me, they are setting conditions where, when and how my son should be buried,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “They want it to do it secretly without a mourning ceremony.”

Navalny’s mother had filed a lawsuit Wednesday over the authorities’ refusal to hand over his body. She had previously demanded Russian authorities immediately release Navalny’s body to her so that she “can give him a proper burial.”

An aide for Navalny said Monday that investigators will not release Navalny’s body for two weeks pending further examination. On Saturday, his mother visited the distant penal colony where he died and received an official death note that listed his time of death as 2:17 p.m. local time Friday.

The Russian Federal Prison Service said Navalny was feeling unwell after a walk and lost consciousness, saying an ambulance was called but the crew’s efforts to rehabilitate him were unsuccessful.

Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said Saturday that Russian officials told Navalny’s mother her son died from “sudden death syndrome” — a vague term used to describe various cardiac syndromes that can prompt sudden cardiac arrest and death.

President Biden and other world leaders directly blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for Navalny’s death last week.

“Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible,” Biden said Friday. “What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled.”

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