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Today's Paper | June 22, 2024

Updated 18 Feb, 2024 09:53am

Navalny’s ‘killers’ refusing to hand over body: allies

MOSCOW: Alexei Navalny’s supporters on Saturday accused Russian authorities of being “killers” who were “covering their tracks” by refusing to hand over his body, as the Kremlin stayed silent despite Western accusations and a flood of tributes to the late opposition leader.

The 47-year-old Kremlin critic died in an Arctic prison on Friday after spending more than three years behind bars, prompting outrage and condemnation from Wes­tern leaders and his supporters.

His death, which the West has blamed on the Kremlin, deprives Russia’s opposition of its figurehead just a month before elections poised to extend President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.

On Saturday, Navalny‘s mother, Lyudmila and his lawyer were refused access to his body, after arriving in the region of the remote prison colony where he had been held, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said. “It’s obvious that the killers want to cover their tracks and are therefore not handing over Alexei’s body, hiding it even from his mother,“ Navalny’s team said in a post on Telegram.

Russian police on Saturday moved swiftly to break up small protests and memorials in honour of the deceased Kremlin critic. They arrested more than 340 people in 30 cities, the OVD-Info rights group said.

In the capital Moscow, reporters saw two people being detained at a makeshift tribute in central Moscow, while hundreds of tearful mourners laid flowers in the snow.

“Alexei Navalny’s death is the worst thing that could happen to Russia,” said one note left among the flowers.

Putin ‘responsible’

After initially pushing back at accusations they were to blame, the Kremlin made no mention of his death on Saturday, despite an angry chorus of condemnation from Western leaders.

G7 foreign ministers meeting in Munich held a minute’s silence for the leader on Saturday, while US President Joe Biden pointed the blame at Putin. “Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” he said on Friday.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference hours after news of her husband’s death, Yulia Navalnaya said Putin and his entourage would be “punished for everything they have done to our country, to my family and to my husband”.

She called on the international community to “unite and defeat this evil, terrifying regime”. Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov said Navalny’s death was “murder” and that he was “tortured and tormented” for all of the three years he spent in prison.

Tributes continued to pour in on Saturday, as supporters staged anti-Putin protests and set up memorials to Navalny at Russian diplomatic missions around the world.

In Russia, police detained hundreds of people who had laid flowers at monuments to the victims of political repression, rights groups said.

In a video posted by the independent Sota outlet from the capital Moscow, a woman could be heard screaming as a crowd of police officers forcefully detained her, to chants of “shame” from onlookers.

Another showed a group of people in plain clothes removing flowers from a monument opposite the former headquarters of the Soviet secret police, while police blocked off the area.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2024

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