Navalny’s mother criticizes Russia over her son’s remains while Putin travels in a nuclear-capable bomber


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

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

But Navalnaya, 69, said she was now locked in a tough battle with local authorities in the northern Russian city of Salekhard, who, following orders from Moscow, were not handing over custody of the remains. She said authorities warned her that if she did not “agree to a secret funeral” then “they would do something with my son’s body.”

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

The back-and-forth over Navalny’s remains reflects how central his figure is to Russian politics, even after his death. The Kremlin appears to fear that a funeral that draws Navalny supporters could become a focal point of protest. There was no immediate comment from Russian authorities on Ms Navalnaya’s claims.

“They want to take me to the edge of a cemetery, to a fresh grave and say, ‘Here lies your son,’” Navalnaya said in her video from Salekhard, the city closest to the Arctic prison where Navalny last died. week. “I do not agree with this. I want those of you who value Aleksei and consider his death a personal tragedy to have the opportunity to say goodbye to him.”

As the drama unfolded, President Vladimir V. Putin remained silent about Navalny and continued a publicity tour that appeared geared toward next month’s presidential election — a formal affair that Putin is certain to win, but which the Kremlin is expected to win. use to demonstrate Mr. Putin’s legitimacy.

On Thursday, Putin performed a short flight in a supersonic bomber, a stunt that also served as a visible reminder to the West of his country’s status as a nuclear superpower. Earlier this week, Putin denied warnings from US officials that Russia could be planning to put a nuclear weapon in orbit, but added that the new generation of Russian nuclear weapons aimed at ground targets is what they “should really fear.”

Thursday’s flight lasted just 30 minutes, the Kremlin said in a statement, but the range of the wide-winged Tu-160M, also known as the White Swan in Russia, allows it to reach the mainland United States with two dozen nuclear weapons. on board.

Russian state television showed Putin, 71, climbing the stairs beneath the giant fighter jet, one of the largest and heaviest in the world, before it took off from the runway of an airfield in Kazan, a city east of Moscow. The Kremlin released a video of Putin’s flight that showed him sitting in a pilot’s seat.

Disembarking from the plane, Putin told reporters that the flight had left a good impression and praised the new modernized bomber as “very reliable.”

Dmitri S. Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told state television that Putin made the decision to take the flight spontaneously on Thursday when he visited an aviation factory in Kazan, where he inspected four modernized Tu-160M ​​bombers.

But since assuming the presidency of Russia more than two decades ago, Putin has become known for publicity stunts designed to present him as a strong leader of a great power. He has flown in a fighter jet, dived into the sea in a submersible and steered Siberian cranes to his winter habitat in a motorized hang glider. In 2005, Putin conducted a flight in an earlier version of the Soviet-era bomber, the Tu-160.

Putin has said nothing publicly about Navalny’s death last Friday, although Peskov said the same day that the president had been informed.

However, other Russian officials have continued to attack Navalny’s movement after his death. On Thursday, Dmitri A. Medvedev, former Russian president and now deputy head of Putin’s Security Council, directed his ire at Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya.

Yulia Navalnaya, who had long avoided the spotlight, said after her husband’s death that she would work to continue his legacy.

“Look at the smiling, happy face of Navalny’s widow,” Medvedev said in an interview published Thursday. “It gives the impression that she was waiting for this event all these years to be able to develop her political life.”

Yulia Navalnaya fired Mr. Medvedev’s comments on social media platform X, calling him a “nobody.”

But the biggest source of tensions on Thursday centered on what would happen to Navalny’s body and his funeral.

Ivan Zhdanov, a senior Navalny adviser, said investigators had told Navalny’s mother that her son’s body had to be stored outside Moscow before burial because they feared a morgue in the Russian capital “would be raided.”

In an interview posted on YouTube on Thursday, Zhdanov said investigators, under orders from Moscow, tried to limit Navalny’s relatives in their choice of cemetery and funeral room. Zhdanov compared the authorities’ demands to the funeral of mercenary chief Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, who was secretly buried in St. Petersburg after leading a 24-hour mutiny against the Kremlin and dying in a plane crash two months later.

“It’s hard to surprise us,” Zhdanov said. “But it was difficult to imagine that a mother would be blackmailed with a decomposing body to take to Moscow and bury it secretly.”

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