Russian opposition leader Navalny’s team confirms his death, demands return of body

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny‘s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, has confirmed his death and demanded that his body be handed over to his family “immediately.” Yarmysh accused Russian officials of lying in order to delay the process, CNN reported.

Yarmysh’s statement comes after Russian prison service said that Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s critic Navalny died on Friday after he felt unwell during a walk in his prison and fell unconscious. The cause of his death is not clear.

In a post on social media, Kira Yarmysh said, “Alexey Navalny was murdered. His death occurred on February 16 at 2:17 p.m. local time, according to the official message to Alexei’s mother,” according to CNN report.

Yarmysh added, “We demand that Alexey Navalny’s body be handed over to his family immediately.” The exact location of Navalny’s body remains unclear.

Navalny’s mother and lawyer travelled to the penal colony where the Russian opposition leader was being held on Saturday to receive official confirmation of his death, CNN reported, citing Yarmysh.

Yarmysh said, “They waited for two hours, after which a colony employee came out to them and stated that the body of Alexey Navalny was in Salekhard [a nearby town], that investigators from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation had taken it now, and that they were now conducting an investigation on it,” CNN reported. In a post on Telegram, Navalny’s team said that the penal colony was closed despite the prison saying it would be open and that Navalny’s body was there. Later, Navalny’s mother and the lawyer visited Salekhard town. However, upon reaching the mortuary, they were informed that the body was not there. Yarmysh said the Russian Investigative Committee on Saturday informed Navalny’s other lawyer later that the body will not be handed over to relatives until the probe is complete.

She said, “The results will supposedly be available next week. It’s obvious that they are lying and doing everything they can to avoid handing over the body.”

Navalny had returned to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he was undergoing treatment after being poisoned with Novichok, CNN reported. Upon arrival, Navalny was arrested on charges he dismissed as politically motivated.

He has remained behind bars ever since, with concerns for his welfare growing after he was shifted to a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle, according to CNN report.

Reports of Navalny’s death sparked outrage, with some Western leaders blaming Putin. On Friday, US President Joe Biden said that he is “outraged” by the reported death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. He blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for Navalny’s death.

In his remarks on Navalny’s death, Biden said, “Reports of his death if they’re true and I have no reasons to believe that they’re not – Russian authorities are going to tell their own story but make no mistake Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible. What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality no one should be fooled not in Russia not at home not anywhere in the world.”

He said Navalny “bravely stood up to the corruption, the violence and all the bad things that the Putin government was doing.” Biden stated that Navalny could have lived safely in exile. However, he returned to Russia knowing that he would likely be imprisoned or even killed if he continued to work. Putin lauded Navalny for being the powerful voice for the truth even in prison.

Biden said that, like millions of people around the world, “I’m literally both not surprised and outraged by the reported death of Alexei Navalny. He bravely stood up to the corruption, the violence and all the bad things that the Putin government was doing. In response, Putin had him poisoned, he had him arrested. He had him prosecuted for fabricated crimes. He sentenced him to prison he was held in isolation. Even all that didn’t stop him from calling out Putin’s lies.”

Meanwhile, European Union President Ursula von der Leyen condoled the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin fears nothing more than dissent of his people. She urged people to unite in a fight to safeguard the freedom and safety of people who oppose ‘autocracy’.

“Deeply disturbed and saddened by news of the death of Alexei Navalny. Putin fears nothing more than dissent from his own people. A grim reminder of what Putin and his regime are all about. Let’s unite in our fight to safeguard the freedom and safety of those who dare to stand up against autocracy,” she posted on X.

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