Navalny, an ally of the late Kremlin critic, says authorities are threatening to bury him in prison

Russian authorities, an ally of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, say they have given his mother a deadline to agree to forgo a public funeral or face immediate burial in prison.

An ally of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Friday that Russian authorities have given his mother a deadline to agree to forgo a public funeral or they will bury her in prison.

Investigators gave Lyudmila Navalnaya three hours to accept a proposal for a private funeral out of public view, Navalny's close ally Ivan Zhdanov said on social media, another twist in a nearly week-long standoff with authorities over the recovery of the politician's body.

Navalnaya has refused to continue negotiations, demanding that authorities follow the law and hand over the body within 48 hours of determining the cause of death, which will be Saturday, Zhdanov said. He has lodged a complaint accusing the authorities of insulting the body, he said.

“He insists that the authorities allow a funeral and a memorial service according to tradition,” Zhdanov said.

Navalny, 47, Russia's most popular opposition politician, died unexpectedly in an Arctic penal colony on February 16, prompting hundreds of Russians across the country to stream to impromptu memorials with flowers and candles. Russian authorities have detained scores of people as they seek to quell a huge outpouring of sympathy for President Vladimir Putin, his arch-rival, ahead of a presidential election that he is almost certain to win.

Navalny's mother and lawyers have been trying to recover his body since late last week — efforts that have received support from prominent Russians.

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Lyudmila Navalnaya said Thursday that she had allowed investigators to view her son's body at the morgue in the Arctic city of Salekhard. He said he repeated his demand that Navalny's body be handed over to him and resisted what he described as authorities trying to force him into a secret burial. “They want to do it in secret, without mourning,” he said.

Navalny's spokeswoman, Kira Yarmish, X, said earlier on Twitter that Navalny was shown a medical certificate saying the 47-year-old politician died of “natural causes.” Yarmish did not specify what they were.

Posting on social media, prominent public figures have directly appealed to Putin to hand over Navalny's body to his family.

“Give Lyudmila her son,” said Nobel Prize-winning journalist Dmitry Muratov, “It's disgusting to talk about this in a country that still considers itself Christian.”

Natya Tolokonnikova, widely known after spending nearly two years in prison for participating in a 2012 protest with the band Bussy Riot inside Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, also released a video.

“We were jailed for violating traditional values. But no one tramples traditional Russian values ​​more than you, Putin, your officials and your priests who pray year after year, day after day, for all the murders you commit,” Tolokonnikova said.

“Putin, have a conscience, give his son's body to his mother,” he added.

Ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov said he “resolutely asks” the authorities to “hand over the body of the murdered Alexei Navalny to his mother”.

Navalny's mother filed a lawsuit in a court in Salekhard against the authorities' refusal to release her son's body. A closed-door hearing is scheduled for March 4. On Tuesday, she appealed to Putin to allow her son's body to be buried with dignity.

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In a video on Monday, Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalny, accused Putin of killing her husband and accused the refusal to release his body as part of a cover-up.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the allegations as “absolutely baseless, derogatory accusations against the head of the Russian state.”

Zhdanov announced on Friday a reward of 50,000 euros for “detailed information” about what happened to Navalny.

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