Widow of Navalny accuses Putin of mocking Christianity for refusing to return her husband’s body


The widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused President Vladimir Putin of mocking Christianity by trying to force his mother to agree to a secret funeral after his death in a penal colony.

Yulia Navalnaya said in a video released Saturday that Navalny’s mother, who wants her son’s body returned to her, is being “literally tortured” by authorities who had threatened to bury Navalny in the Arctic prison. They suggested to his mother that she does not have much time to make a decision because the body is decomposing, Navalnaya said.

“Give us the body of my husband,” Navalnaya said. “You tortured him alive, and now you keep torturing him dead. You mock the remains of the dead.”

Navalny, 47, Russia’s most well-known opposition politician, unexpectedly died on Feb. 16 in the penal colony, prompting hundreds of Russians across the country to stream to impromptu memorials with flowers and candles.

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. Russians on social media say officials do not want to return Navalny’s body to his family because they fear a public show of support for him.

Navalnaya accused Putin, an Orthodox Christian, of killing Navalny.

“No true Christian could ever do what Putin is now doing with the body of Alexei,” she said, asking, “What will you do with his corpse? How low will you sink to mock the man you murdered?”

Putin is often pictured at church, dunking himself in ice water to celebrate the Epiphany and visiting holy sites in Russia. He has promoted what he has called “traditional values” without which, he once said, “society degrades.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected allegations that Putin was involved in Navalny’s death, calling them “absolutely unfounded, insolent accusations about the head of the Russian state.”

Musician Nadya Tolokonnikova, who became widely known after spending nearly two years in prison for taking part in a 2012 protest with her band Pussy Riot inside Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, released a video in which she also accused Putin of hypocrisy.

“We were imprisoned for allegedly trampling on traditional values. But no one tramples on traditional Russian values more than you, Putin, your officials and your priests who pray for all the murder that you do, year after year, day after day,” Tolokonnikova, who lives abroad, said. “Putin, have a conscience, give his mother the body of her son.”

Tolokonnikova was one of several cultural icons who have released videos calling on Russian authorities to return Navalny’s body to his family so that they can give him a funeral. Navalny’s mother and lawyers have been trying to retrieve his body since late last week.

Lyudmila Navalnaya said Thursday that investigators allowed her to see her son’s body in the morgue in the Arctic city of Salekhard. She has filed a lawsuit at a court in Salekhard contesting officials’ refusal to release the body. A closed-door hearing has been scheduled for March 4.

Navalny’s spokesman, Kira Yarmysh, said on X, formerly Twitter, that Lyudmila Navalnaya was shown a medical certificate stating that her son died of “natural causes.”

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