Alexei Navalny's mother barred from seeing son's body in Arctic morgue with cause of Putin critic's death still unknown

19 February 2024, 09:20

Alexei Navalny's mother has been barred from seeing her son's body,
Alexei Navalny's mother has been barred from seeing her son's body,. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Alexei Navalny's mother has been barred from seeing her own son's body in a morgue after the Russian opposition leader died in mysterious circumstances on on Friday.

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Navalny died in a remote Arctic prison on Friday. Officials have not given a cause of death, although local media reported that he suffered a blood clot.

Navalny's mother Lyudmila has struggled even to see his body, which is reported to have been covered in bruises at the time of death.

He was the foremost critic of Vladimir Putin, and had been jailed in 2021 on charges widely denounced as political. Many commentators and politicians, as well as Navalny's wife Yulia, have blamed Putin directly or indirectly for his death.

His spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said on Monday: "Alexey’s mother and his lawyers arrived at the morgue early in the morning. They were not allowed to go in.

Read more: 'Murdered by Putin': Kremlin arch-enemy Alexei Navalny dies after 'going for a walk' in freezing Russian prison

Read more: Vladimir Putin's main political rival Alexei Navalny 'disappears from prison'

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"One of the lawyers was literally pushed out. When the staff was asked if Alexey’s body was there, they did not answer."

Ms Yarmysh added later that investigators: "informed the mother and the lawyers that the investigation of the death of Navalny has been extended.

"They don’t say how long it will take. The cause of death is still 'unknown.' They lie, buy time for themselves and do not even hide it."

Protests broke out in Russia over the weekend demanding that Mr Navalny's body be released. At least 100 people are thought to have been arrested.

Navalny's friend Tatiana Fokina told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Monday that "there was a huge movement in Russia now demanding for the body to be released to the family.

"Because obviously, it just looks as if the authorities are trying, as always, to cover something up."

"What the West needs to do is get real" says former British Ambassador to Russia Sir Laurie Bristow

Former diplomats and politicians who dealt with Russia warned that Navalny's death could show that Putin's resolve was strengthening.

Laurie Bristow told Nick: "What the West needs to do here is to get real. Quite a few Western politicians have done so. It's been really extraordinary how strong the support has been from the Eastern Europeans, from the Balts, the Baltic states, they know up close and personal what we're dealing with here.

"Some of the Western countries have put in a great deal of support to Ukraine, but it's not enough and it needs to be sustained for as long as it takes. And also we need to look at the effect of Russian disinformation and propaganda on our own societies.

Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny. Picture: Getty

Meanwhile former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon said Navalny's death looked to be "suspicious".

He added that it was "a reminder to everybody that Putin and his regime are actually evil, they're not just capable of invading other countries but they are capable of murdering at home, murdering anybody who stands up against them.

"There have been a succession now of people who have fallen with Putin and then of course have mysteriously died in different circumstances.

"What this shows is that Putin is now a man who will stop at nothing to recover the territories the Soviet Union has lost, and will stop at nothing to cross descent at home, we've got to step up again now and take the threat from Russia much more seriously."

It comes after Ms Navalnaya shared a final image with her husband.

The photo showed the couple in a dimly lit setting in which the late Mr Navalny is kissing his wife on the side of the head.

Ms Navalnaya spoke at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, just hours after Russian authorities announced Navalny's death.

She received a standing ovation after saying: "I want Putin and everyone around him to know that they will be held accountable for everything they did to our country, to my family and to my husband.

"And this day will come very soon."

After Navalny's death was announced, Ms Navalnaya said that Vladimir Putin "will be held accountable" for his death.

Several international politicians and Putin critics have already said that the Russian president should be held responsible for Navalny's death.

The circumstances of his death remain unclear, and Navalnaya said she wasn't even certain that he had died, given the unreliable nature of the information given by the Kremlin.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, she said, Navalnaya said: "Thank you for the conference organisers that gave me the main stage. You have all probably seen the terrible news that came in today.

Yulia Navalnaya
Yulia Navalnaya. Picture: Getty

"I thought for a long time: 'Is it worth me to come here or to fly to my children straight away?' But then I thought: 'What would Alexei do in my place?' And I'm confident that he would be here, he would be on this stage," she said.

"I don't know whether to believe the news, the terrible news that we are receiving only from the state sources in Russia," she said, adding that Putin and his government are "always lying".

"But if this is true, I would like that Putin and all his coterie, Putin's friends, his government to know that they will be accountable for what they've done to our country, to my family, and to my husband.

"They will be liable for that. That day will come very soon."

Alexei Navalny died in prison
Alexei Navalny died in prison. Picture: Getty

She also called for the world's leaders to focus on defeating Putin's "evil" regime.

Navalnaya said: "I would like to call upon the global community, everyone in this room, people around the world, that we would unite together and overcome that evil, overcome that terrible regime that is currently in Russia.

"That regime and Vladimir Putin have to be personally liable for all the horrible things they are doing to my country, to our country Russia in the last years."

Navalny died on Friday after "going for a walk" in his prison colony, in the Arctic Yamalo-Nenets region of Russia.

His cause of death has not been confirmed, but Russian outlets reported that he suffered a detached blood clot.

Navalny's mother Lyudmila said that her son had appeared well on Monday, the last time she saw him.

She wrote on Facebook: "I don't want to hear any condolences. We saw him in prison on the (February) 12, in a meeting. He was alive, healthy and happy."

Putin on Friday
Putin on Friday. Picture: Getty

Navalny, who has long criticised Putin and campaigned against him, had suffered a series of attacks on his health in recent years.

He was poisoned with Novichok in 2020, and went to Germany for urgent treatment.

On his return to Russia in 2021, he was jailed for violating parole conditions for a 2014 prison sentence, which was widely condemned as a political charge.

He claimed he was being tortured in prison, and his staff said he had been placed in isolation 27 times over a total of 308 days - the latest instance of which was on Wednesday.

He disappeared for several weeks late last year, before reappearing in his Arctic prison.

Sunak pays tribute after death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Kremlin critics and Western politicians blamed Putin for his death after the news emerged on Friday morning.

Bill Browder told LBC: "Alexei Navalny was one of the most courageous people in Russia.

“He was ready to call out Putin for who he is which is A criminal, a thief and a murderer.

“For that Putin tried to kill him with chemical nerve agent Novichok in 2020. Here we are in 2024 and they got him.

“He was an extremely healthy vital young man before the poisoning attempt. It’s obvious to me that Alexei Navalny was killed by Putin.”

Mr Browder said later: "Let's make no mistake, Putin assassinated Alexei Navalny. He did so because Alexei Navalny was brave enough to stand up to Putin.   

Watch Again: James O'Brien and Bill Browder on Alexei Navalny's death | 16/02/24

"He did so because Navalny offered the Russian people an alternative to kleptocracy and repression. This is a tragic day for Navalny and his family, but also for Russia and the hope for a better future."

Responding to the news, former oligarch and Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky said: "If this is true, then, regardless of the formal reason, Vladimir Putin personally bears responsibility for his premature death.

Khodorkovsky said that it was Putin that “first authorised the poisoning of Alexei and then put him in prison”.

The EU also blamed the Kremlin for Navalny's death.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: "Putin fears nothing more than dissent from his own people. The world has lost a freedom fighter in Alexei Navalny.

"We will honor his name. And in his name we will stand up for democracy and our values."

Alexei Navalny was an outspoken critic of the Kremlin
Alexei Navalny was an outspoken critic of the Kremlin. Picture: Getty

European Council president Charles Michel said that he "fought for the values of freedom and democracy. For his ideals, he made the ultimate sacrifice."

He added: "The EU holds the Russian regime for sole responsible for this tragic death. I extend my deepest condolences to his family. And to those who fight for democracy around the world in the darkest conditions.

"Fighters die. But the fight for freedom never ends."

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the death as "terrible news", adding: "As the fiercest advocate for Russian democracy, Alexei Navalny demonstrated incredible courage throughout his life."

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Vladimir Putin "should be accountable for what has happened".

Lord Cameron said: "Navalny fought bravely against corruption. Putin's Russia fabricated charges against him, poisoned him, sent him to an arctic penal colony & now he has tragically died.

"Putin should be accountable for what has happened - no one should doubt the dreadful nature of his regime."

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