Alexei Navalny's spokesman confirms his death and requests his body be handed over to his family



CNN

The body of a prisoner Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny He should be handed over to his family “immediately,” his spokeswoman Kira Yarmish said Saturday, accusing Russian officials of lying to delay the process.

A 47-year-old outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin died on Friday after collapsing while taking a walk around his prison, Russian prisons said. The cause of his death is unclear.

News of his death sparked outrage, with some Western leaders blaming Putin.

In the first confirmation from Navalny's team that he had died, Yarmish said his mother had been notified.

“Alexei Navalny was killed. His death occurred on February 16 at 2:17 p.m. local time, according to an official message to Alexey's mother,” Yarmish said in a post on social media.

“We demand that the body of Alexei Navalny be immediately handed over to his family,” Yarmish said.

The exact location of Navalny's body remains unclear.

Yarmish said Navalny's mother and lawyer flew to the penal colony where the Kremlin critic was held on Saturday to officially confirm his death.

“They waited for two hours, after which a colony employee came out and told them that Alexei Navalny's body was in Salekhard. [a nearby town]”Investigators of the Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation have now picked it up, and they are now investigating it,” Yarmish said.

Navalny's team wrote in a telegram that the penal colony was closed and Navalny's body was there, despite saying the prison was open.

Later on Saturday, Navalny's mother and lawyer went to Salekhort, but when they arrived at the morgue, the body was not there, Navalny's team said.

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Yarmish said the body would not be handed over to relatives until Russia's investigative team had finished questioning another Navalny lawyer on Saturday.

“Results will be available next week. It is obvious that they are lying and trying their best not to hand over the body,” he said.

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

Navalny posed one of the most serious threats during Putin's rule that lasted more than two decades. arranged Street protests against the government and used his blog and social media to expose corruption in the Kremlin and Russian business.

He was jailed after returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he was treated for poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. Upon arrival, Navalny was quickly arrested on charges dismissed as politically motivated.

After being transferred to a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle, Navalny was imprisoned as long-standing concerns about his welfare intensified.

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

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Western condemnation of the Kremlin was swift and strong following the news of his death on Friday. US President Joe Biden laid the blame for Navalny's death at Putin's feet, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said there were “serious questions” for Russia.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin had sent a “clear message” following Navalny's death.

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“After the murder of Alexei Navalny, it is absurd to consider Putin as the 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 and to my husband,” she said in emotional remarks that drew applause at the MSC on Friday.

On Valentine's Day, two days before Russian authorities said she had died, Navalny posted a message to Yulia on social media.

“Baby, everything is in one song with you: between us there are cities, departure lights of airports, blue blizzards and thousands of kilometers. But I feel that you are closer every second, and I love you more and more,” he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was informed that doctors should determine the cause of Navalny's death based on these reports.

More than 400 people have been detained across Russia for participating in vigils and rallies following Navalny's death, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors arrests, including at least 200 in St. Petersburg alone. It is unclear how many of those arrested were released.

People in Moscow brought flowers to the Wall of Mourning for the second day in a row on Saturday in honor of Navalny, video from the independent Telegram channel SOTA showed.

About 50 people gathered at the Wall of Mourning for a rally before police began chasing people away from the monument, independent news agency Mozhem Obyasnit reported.

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This is a developing story and will be updated.

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