Alexei Navalny's body was abused after his death, his wife Yulia claims, as she warns funeral 'may not be peaceful'

28 February 2024, 12:09 | Updated: 28 February 2024, 12:10

Alexei Navalny's body handed to mother after 'three-hour ultimatum' over late Russian opposition figure's burial
Alexei Navalny's body handed to mother after 'three-hour ultimatum' over late Russian opposition figure's burial. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The body of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was abused after his death in the Arctic gulag, his wife has claimed.

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Speaking to the European Parliament, Yulia Navalnaya also said that she was not sure whether Alexei's funeral, set to take place on Friday, will be peaceful.

"You are not dealing with a politician but a bloody monster," she warned as she spoke of Vladimir Putin, who is considered to be responsible for his death.

Her comments come shortly after it was announced that Navalny's funeral will take place in Moscow.

It will be held at a church in Moscow’s southeast Maryino district on Friday afternoon, before he is laid to rest at a nearby cemetery.

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Picture: Alamy

Several days ago, his body was handed over to his mother after she was given a "three-hour ultimatum" by Russian officials to agree to a "secret" burial of her son if she wanted custody of his body.

If she disagreed, Russian officials were set to bury Mr Navalny, 47, at the Arctic penal colony where he died.

Navalny's spokesperson Kira Yarmysh made the announcement on X on February 24, thanking everybody who had demanded the return of his body. She said the funeral "is yet to take place".

"We don't know whether the authorities will interfere with it being carried out in the way the family wants and as Alexei deserves."

Mr Navalny died earlier this month at the Arctic circle jail where he was being held. Western leaders have accused the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin of orchestrating this killing.

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Mr Navalny's widow had attacked Putin for trying to force the Russian opposition figure's mother to agree to a secret funeral.

Yulia Navalnaya said in a video that Ms Navalnaya is being "literally tortured" by authorities who had threatened to bury him in the Arctic prison.

They suggested to his mother that she does not have much time to make a decision because the body is decomposing, Ms Navalnaya said.

Mr Navalny's death prompted hundreds of Russians across the country to stream to impromptu memorials with flowers and candles.

Authorities rushed to detain scores of people and continue to suppress any major outpouring of sympathy for Putin's fiercest and most well-known opponent before a presidential election he is almost certain to win.

Russians on social media said officials do not want to return Mr Navalny's body to his family because they fear a public show of support for him.

Russian opposition leader in court in 2023. Photo: Moscow City Court Press Service.
Russian opposition leader in court in 2023. Photo: Moscow City Court Press Service. Picture: Alamy

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Ms Navalnaya accused the Russian president, who claims to be an Orthodox Christian, of killing Mr Navalny.

"No true Christian could ever do what Putin is now doing with the body of Alexei," she said, asking: "What will you do with his corpse? How low will you sink to mock the man you murdered?"

Saturday marked nine days since the opposition leader's death, a day when Orthodox Christians hold a memorial service.

Residents of several Russian cities came out to mark the occasion and honour Mr Navalny's memory by leaving flowers at public monuments or holding one-person protests.

At least 27 had been detained in nine Russian cities by 12.45pm on Saturday, according to the OVD-Info rights group.