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Navalny's body handed over to his mother: spokeswoman

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Lyudmila Navalnaya has been in the Arctic region for several days, asking for the body of her son. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconLyudmila Navalnaya has been in the Arctic region for several days, asking for the body of her son. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

The body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died suddenly and unexpectedly in prison last week, has been handed over to his mother, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh says.

Yarmysh said in an online post on Saturday she did not know if the authorities would allow a funeral to be held "the way the family wants and the way Alexei deserves".

Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, made the same announcement on his Telegram account and thanked everyone who had called on Russian authorities to return Navalny's body to his family.

Earlier on Saturday, Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny's widow, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of mocking Christianity by trying to force his mother to agree to a secret funeral after his death in an Arctic penal colony.

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"Thank you very much. Thanks to everyone who wrote and recorded video messages. You all did what you needed to do. Thank you. Alexei Navalny's body has been given to his mother," Zhdanov wrote.

Navalny, 47, Russia's most well-known opposition politician, unexpectedly died on February 16 in an Arctic penal colony and his family have been fighting for more than a week to have his body returned to them.

Prominent Russians released videos calling on authorities to release the body and some foreign governments hit Russia with more sanctions as punishment for Navalny's death as well as for the second anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine.

Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, is still in Salekhard, Yarmysh said on X.

Lyudmila Navalnaya has been in the Arctic region for more than a week, demanding that Russian authorities return the body of her son to her.

Authorities have detained scores of people as they seek to suppress any major outpouring of sympathy for Putin's fiercest foe before the presidential election he is almost certain to win.

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

People across Russia came out to mark the occasion and honour Navalny's memory by gathering at Orthodox churches, leaving flowers at public monuments or holding one-person protests.

Muscovites lined up outside the city's Christ the Saviour Cathedral to pay their respects, according to photos and videos published by independent Russian news outlet SOTAvision.

The video also shows Russian police stationed nearby and officers stopping several people for an ID check.

As of early Saturday afternoon, at least 27 people had been detained in nine Russian cities for showing support for Navalny, according to the OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests.

They included Elena Osipova, a 78-year-old artist from St Petersburg who stood in a street with a poster showing Navalny with angel wings, and Sergei Karabatov, 64, who came to a Moscow monument to victims of political repression with flowers and a note saying "Don't think this is the end".

Also arrested was Aida Nuriyeva, from the city of Ufa near the Ural Mountains, who publicly held up a sign saying "Putin is Navalny's murderer! I demand that the body be returned!".

with AP

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