Alexei Navalny's Mother Files Lawsuit With A Russian Court Demanding Release Of Her Son's Body

This image taken from video shows flowers and a portrait of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny that Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, put to pay tribute to her son at the at the memorial to victims of political repression, in Salekhard, 1937 km (1211 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Russians across the vast country streamed to ad-hoc memorials with flowers and candles to pay tribute to Alexei Navalny, the most famous Russian opposition leader and the Kremlin's fiercest critic. Russian officials reported that Navalny, 47, died in prison on Friday. (AP Photo)
This image taken from video shows flowers and a portrait of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny that Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, put to pay tribute to her son at the at the memorial to victims of political repression, in Salekhard, 1937 km (1211 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Russians across the vast country streamed to ad-hoc memorials with flowers and candles to pay tribute to Alexei Navalny, the most famous Russian opposition leader and the Kremlin's fiercest critic. Russian officials reported that Navalny, 47, died in prison on Friday. (AP Photo)
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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 reported Wednesday.

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. She has been unable to find out where his body is being held, Navalny’s team reported.

On Wednesday, Navalnaya laid flowers and a picture of her son at a monument dedicated to journalists in Salekhard, close to the prison where Navalny died. Floral tributes that Navalnaya had left a day earlier at the town’s memorial to the victims of repression had been cleared away overnight, while several police officers continued to keep watch close to the monument.

Navalnaya appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday 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,” a black-clad Navalnaya, 69, said in the video, with the barbed wire of Penal Colony No. 3 in Kharp, about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.

“I’m reaching out to you, Vladimir Putin. The resolution of this matter depends solely on you. Let me finally see my son. I demand that Alexei’s body is released immediately, so that I can bury him like a human being,” she said in the video, which was posted to social media by Navalny’s team.

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.

They accused the government of stalling to try to hide evidence. On Monday, 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 the allegations of a cover-up, telling reporters that “these are absolutely unfounded, insolent accusations about the head of the Russian state.”

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 Navalny as a rare hope for political change amid Putin’s unrelenting crackdown on the opposition.

Since Navalny’s 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. Authorities cordoned off some of the memorials to victims of Soviet repression across the country that were being used as sites to leave makeshift tributes to Navalny. Police removed the flowers at night, but more keep appearing.

Several men who were detained at memorials to Navalny were also ordered to report to their local army recruitment office, where Russian authorities are actively recruiting volunteer soldiers and updating records of men eligible for service, according to Go by the Forest, an activist group helping Russians to avoid military service.

Peskov said police were acting “in accordance with the law” by detaining people paying tribute to Navalny.

Over 75,000 people have submitted requests to the government asking for Navalny’s remains to be handed over to his relatives, OVD-Info said.