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Lyudmila Navalnaya (center) outside of the local Russian Investigative Committee building in the town of Salekhard. February 21, 2024.

‘We’re afraid they’ll storm the morgue’ Fearing what public mourning could bring, the Kremlin wants to bury Navalny in secret

Source: Meduza
Lyudmila Navalnaya (center) outside of the local Russian Investigative Committee building in the town of Salekhard. February 21, 2024.
Lyudmila Navalnaya (center) outside of the local Russian Investigative Committee building in the town of Salekhard. February 21, 2024.
AP / Scanpix / LETA

Alexey Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, said Thursday that the Russian authorities had finally allowed her to see her son’s body. In a video published on Navalny’s YouTube channel, she said that state investigators had threatened her and demanded to bury Navalny’s body in secret.

On Wednesday evening, according to Navalnaya, she was taken to the morgue in secret and allowed to see her son’s death certificate, which she signed. However, she said, the authorities refused to release her son’s body, and investigators are insisting on a set of conditions for where, when, and how he will be buried.

Navalnaya said that the investigators she spoke to threatened to “do something with the body” if she doesn’t allow them to bury her son in secret. Rather than agree, Lyudmila Navalnaya demanded that the authorities release her son’s body immediately.

According to Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, the death certificate that was shown to Navalny’s mother says that he died of “natural causes.” Yarmysh also said that according to the authorities, Navalny’s body has already been autopsied. “At the very least, they’ve filled out a death certificate that includes the cause of death,” Yarmysh told journalists from Agentstvo.

Yarmysh said the investigators want to organize Navalny’s burial themselves. “They want it to be held in secret, somewhere remote, without a public ceremony,” she said.

State investigators also gave Lyudmila Navalnaya their conditions for releasing Navalny’s body, Navalny associate Ivan Zhdanov told journalist Alexander Plyushchev. After Navalnaya released a statement to Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, investigator Alexander Varapayev invited her to the Salekhard Investigative Committee branch, saying that officials there were “ready to show her the body” but can’t hand it over to the family until their examination is over. According to Zhdanov, Varapayev was speaking to someone on the phone throughout the day and admitted at one point that he was in constant contact with Russian Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin.

During their meeting with Lyudmila Navalnaya, investigators asked her to choose a funeral home and a cemetery for Navalny’s burial. They then set out the following conditions:

  • The authorities will transport Navalny’s body to Moscow. In exchange, his relatives and associates will be required to keep the details of his burial secret until the plane lands. “This is meant to prevent people from meeting the body in the airport,” Zhdanov said.
  • Navalny’s family must be accompanied by Investigative Committee officials until his body is buried.
  • The date of the burial will not be determined until Navalny’s body is flown to Moscow. “The body will be held in the Moscow region or the Vladimir region. ‘Because we’re afraid the morgue will be stormed’ — that’s a direct quote. They’re not hiding anything,” said Zhdanov.

According to Zhdanov, the first cemetery that Navalny’s relatives selected for his burial didn’t suit the authorities. They ultimately chose Khovanskoye Cemetery, which is located on Moscow’s outskirts. The investigators also asked Lyudmila Navalnaya to choose a funeral venue near the cemetery, though the family initially wanted to hold the ceremony at Moscow’s Central House of Literature. After consulting someone by phone, investigators told Navalnaya that the funeral should be held “quietly, in secret,” according to Zhdanov.

On Thursday, Russian public figures began posting video messages demanding that Alexey Navalny’s body be given to his family. Among others, these videos have come from dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, rapper Noize MC (Ivan Alekseyev), actress Tatiana Lazareva, historian Tamara Eidelman, and Pussy Riot co-founder Nadya Tolokonnikova.

“Stop tormenting the family of the deceased. That’s something nobody deserves. Hand over Alexey Navalny’s body to his relatives. They have the right to bury him properly. It’s obvious that there’s now a plan to bury Alexey in such a way that nobody knows where he is. Nobody deserves that — it’s not right. It’s inhumane,” said Noize MC.

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