Alexei Navalny's spokesman confirms his death and demands that his body be returned to his family



CNN

The body of the prisoner Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said on Saturday that he should be handed over to his family “immediately,” and accused Russian officials of lying in order to delay the process.

A vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, 47, died on Friday after feeling unwell while walking in prison and losing consciousness, according to Russia's prison service. The cause of his death is unclear.

News of his death sparked widespread anger, and some Western leaders blamed Putin.

In the first confirmation from Navalny's team of his death, Yarmysh said that his mother had been notified.

“Alexey Navalny was killed. “His death occurred on February 16 at 2:17 pm local time, according to the official letter addressed to Alexei’s mother,” Yarmysh said in a post on social media.

“We demand that Alexei Navalny’s body be handed over to his family immediately,” Yarmysh said.

The exact location of Navalny's body remains unclear.

Navalny's mother and his lawyer went to the penal prison where the Kremlin critic was being held on Saturday to receive official confirmation of his death, according to Yarmysh.

“They waited for two hours, after which one of the colony employees came out to them and said that Alexei Navalny’s body was in Salekhard.” [a nearby town]Yarmysh said that investigators from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation have now taken it, and that they are now conducting an investigation into it.

Navalny's team wrote on Telegram that the penal colony was closed despite the prison announcing that it would be open and that Navalny's body was there.

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Later Saturday, Navalny's mother and lawyer traveled to the town of Salekhard, but when they arrived at the morgue they were told the body was not there, according to Navalny's team.

Yarmysh said Russia's Investigative Committee informed another lawyer for Navalny later on Saturday that the body would not be handed over to relatives until the investigation was completed.

The results should be available next week. “They are clearly lying and doing everything they can to avoid releasing the body,” she added.

Adding to the confusion, an employee at the only morgue in Salekhard told Reuters news agency on Saturday that Navalny's body had not arrived.

Navalny posed one of the most serious threats to Putin during his rule, which extended for more than two decades. He organized Anti-government street protests He used his blog and social media to expose alleged corruption in the Kremlin and in Russian business.

He was imprisoned after returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he was treated after being poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent. Upon his arrival, Navalny was quickly arrested on charges he denied as politically motivated.

Navalny has since been jailed, with long-standing concerns growing for his safety after he was transferred to a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle.

He spent his final weeks in a Siberian prison, where he said he slept under a newspaper for warmth.

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Western condemnation of the Kremlin was swift and fierce after news of his death on Friday. US President Joe Biden placed the blame for Navalny's death at Putin's feet, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had “serious questions” to answer.

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Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin had sent a “clear message” after Navalny’s death.

“After the killing of Alexei Navalny, it is ridiculous to view Putin as the supposed legitimate head of a Russian state,” he said.

Meanwhile, Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, called for Putin to be brought to justice.

“I want them to know that they will be punished for what they did to our country, to my family, to my husband,” she said in emotional remarks that drew a standing ovation at the MSC on Friday.

On Valentine's Day, two days before Russian authorities announced his death, Navalny posted a message on social media to Yulia.

“My darling, everything with you is like a song: there are cities between us, the take-off lights of airports, blue blizzards and thousands of kilometers. But I feel you close every second, and I love you more and more.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was informed of the reports and that it was up to doctors to determine Navalny's cause of death.

More than 400 people have been arrested across Russia for attending vigils and marches following Navalny's death, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors the arrests, with at least 200 more in St. Petersburg. It is unclear how many detainees have been released since then.

A video clip broadcast by the independent SOTA channel on the Telegram application showed that people in Moscow brought flowers to the Wall of Sorrow for the second day in a row, today, Saturday, in memory of Navalny.

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Independent news website Muzahim Opiasnet reported that about 50 people gathered at the Wall of Sorrow to participate in a march before police began turning people away from the memorial.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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