Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia pays heartfelt tribute to husband as family wait for body to be returned

It comes as reports in Russian opposition media say Vladimir Putin critic’s ‘bruised’ body has been seen in a morgue. There has been no confirmation of the whereabouts of the body from either Navalny’s team or Russia

Tom Watling
Sunday 18 February 2024 18:31 GMT
Alexei Navalny and wife share final kiss before Putin critic dies in prison

Yulia Navalnaya has paid a heartfelt tribute to her husband, Alexei Navalny, while the Vladimir Putin critic’s family wait for the return of his body after he died in an Arctic prison on Friday.

Ms Navalnaya posted a picture of the pair, heads touching, with the caption “I love you” on Instagram. It is the first public statement from Ms Navalnaya since Russian authorities confirmed to Mr Navalny’s mother Lyudmila Navalnaya, 69, via a note, that the 47-year-old opposition leader was dead. More than 12,000 people have submitted requests to the Russian government asking for the politician's remains to be handed over to his relatives, the prominent rights group OVD-Info said on Sunday.

Flowers and tributes are left opposite the Russian embassy, to commemorate the death of Alexei Navalny in London (AP)

Her post on the social media site was only the second of the year. The first, posted on 1 January, showed her with the couple’s two children, 23-year-old Daria and teenager Zahar. The caption read: “Let this year be better than the last, let the desired wishes come true, surprises are only pleasant, and loved ones are not sick, do not disappear, and even better – they will always be there!”

She will attend the European Union foreign affairs council on Monday to discuss her husband’s case, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Sunday.

It is still unclear what has happened to Mr Navalny’s body. Mr Navalny’s mother and his lawyer has turned up at the Salekhard morgue on Saturday, where they had been told his body was, to find that it was closed and empty. At the time, Mr Navalny’s spokesperson claimed that the Russian authorities were deliberately withholding his body to “cover traces” of his murder.

On Sunday, the independent formerly Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, citing an unnamed source, claimed that Mr Navalny’s body had been delivered to the Salekhard District Clinical Hospital, instead and had been seen with bruises.

“They also said he had a bruise on his chest – the kind that comes from indirect cardiac massage,” the source said, also claiming that the injuries were consistant with some kind of seizure.

But neither Mr Navalny’s team nor Russian authorities spoken about the claim, nor the whereabouts of the body.

Novaya Gazeta also said that it had managed to contact an inmate at IK-3, who said that a “mysterious commotion” had erupted at the prison the night before news of Mr Navalny’s death broke. It also reported that Mr Navalny had been initially taken to the town of Labytnangi, around 22 miles from the “Polar Wolf” Arctic penal colony in Kharp, about 1,200 miles northeast of Moscow, where he had been serving a lengthy sentence on charges his supporters and the international community believed are trumped up,

Navalny was jailed in January 2021 before being relocated to an Artic Penal Colony late last year (AP)

Citing anonymous sources, they said his body was later on Friday taken to the District Clinical Hospital in the regional capital of Salekhard, about a two-hours drive south of the penal colony in Kharp.

The Russian authorities have told Mr Navalny’s team that they would not release his body until investigations into his death were complete, which could take weeks.

Sam Greene, the director for democratic resilience at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), said that while the exact instance of his death remains an open question, ultimately, Mr Putin’s regime is responsible for Mr Navalny’s death.

“Whether they picked a moment to kill him in a way that would leave a trace of that moment, or whether they simply decided to leave him in conditions in which he would eventually die is an open question,” he told The Independent.

“But there is no question about who bears responsibility for Navalny’s death.”

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