Alexei Navalny’s mother launches court action demanding release of his body

The mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has filed a lawsuit at a court in the Arctic city of Salekhard contesting officials’ refusal to release her son’s body, Russia’s state news agency Tass has reported.

A closed-door hearing has been scheduled for March 4, the report said, quoting court officials.

Lyudmila Navalnaya has been trying to retrieve her son’s body since Saturday, following his death in a penal colony in Russia’s far north a day earlier.

On Tuesday, Ms Navalnaya appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to release her son’s remains so that she could bury him with dignity.

“For the fifth day, I have been unable to see him. They wouldn’t release his body to me. And they’re not even telling me where he is”, Ms Navalnaya, 69, said in a video near the prison colony in the town of Kharp, Russia.

“I’m reaching out to you, Vladimir Putin. The resolution of this matter depends solely on you. Let me finally see my son,” she added in the video, which was posted on social media.

“I demand that Alexei’s body is released immediately, so that I can bury him like a human being.”

Russian authorities have said the cause of Navalny’s death is still unknown and refused to release his body for the next two weeks as the preliminary inquest continues, members of Navalny’s team said.

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Alexei Navalny’s mother Lyudmila Navalnaya speaks near the prison colony in the town of Kharp, Russia (Navalny Team/AP)

On Monday, Mr Navalny’s widow, Yulia, released a video accusing Putin of killing her husband and alleged the refusal to release his body was part of a cover-up.

“They are cowardly and meanly hiding his body, refusing to give it to his mother and lying miserably,” she said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected allegations of a cover-up, telling reporters that “these are absolutely unfounded, insolent accusations about the head of the Russian state”.

Mr Navalny’s death has deprived the Russian opposition of its best-known and inspiring politician less than a month before an election that is all but certain to give Putin another six years in power.

Many Russians had seen Mr Navalny as a rare hope for political change amid Putin’s unrelenting crackdown on the opposition.

Since his death, about 400 people have been detained across in Russia as they tried to pay tribute to him with flowers and candles according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors political arrests.

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