Navalny’s Mother Says Authorities Are ‘Blackmailing’ Her Over Son’s Remains

Russian authorities have declared that the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny died of natural causes but are refusing to release his remains until his mother agrees to a “secret funeral,” Mr. Navalny’s mother and his spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, Mr. Navalny’s mother, said she had been “secretly” taken to a morgue Wednesday night, “where they showed me Aleksei.” She was shown a medical report on Mr. Navalny’s death that said he died of natural causes, according to the Navalny team’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh.

But Ms. Navalnaya said she now was locked in a grim battle with local authorities in the northern Russian city of Salekhard who, taking orders from Moscow, were not releasing custody of the remains. She said the authorities warned that if she did not “agree to a secret funeral,” then “they will do something with my son’s body.”

“They’re blackmailing me,” Ms. Navalnaya said in a video posted on her son’s YouTube channel. “They are setting me conditions on where, when and how Aleksei should be buried.”

The back-and-forth over Mr. Navalny’s remains reflect how pivotal figure he is in Russian politics even in death. The Kremlin appears to fear that a funeral drawing Mr. Navalny’s supporters could turn into a focal point for protest. There was no immediate comment from the Russian authorities on Ms. Navalnaya’s assertions.

“They want to take me to the edge of a cemetery to a fresh grave and say, ‘Here lies your son,’” Ms. Navalnaya said in her video from Salekhard, the closest city to the Arctic prison where Mr. Navalny died last week. “I don’t agree with this. I want those of you who valued Aleksei and take his death as a personal tragedy to have the chance to say farewell to him.”

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