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Kremlin opponent Aleksei Navalny’s mother has made an impassioned plea to Russian President Vladimir Putin to release the body of her son, who died on February 16 in a remote Arctic penal colony, as outrage mounts over the authorities’ handling of Navalny’s death.

Russian authorities have repeatedly refused to return Navalny’s body to his family, claiming an “investigation” of the causes of his death would take up to two weeks. They have blocked his mother and lawyers from accessing the morgue in the Arctic city of Salekhard where the body is reportedly being kept.

“Behind my back is the penal colony IK-3 Polar Wolf, where my son, Aleksei Navalny, died on February 16,” Lyudmila Navalnaya said in the video, which shows her standing in the snow outside of a barbwire fence.

“I have not been able to see his body for five days. They have not handed it over to me and have not even told me where it is,” Navalnaya says, before directly addressing Putin by name, without referring to him as president.

“I am turning to you, Vladimir Putin, because the solution to this problem depends only on you. Let me finally see my son. I demand that Aleksei’s body be released immediately so that I can bury him in a humane way,” Navalnaya says in the short video, which then focuses on the golden onion-shaped dome of a church in the background.

Nearly 70,000 Russian citizens have sent official notes — the Dyatel (Woodpecker) service via the OVD-Info group that allows citizens to send official requests online — to Russia’s Investigative Committee demanding Navalny’s body be returned to his family.

As public anger grows over the authorities’ refusal and speculation swirls about whether Navalny’s body showed signs of abuse, his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, claimed Russian authorities were delaying handing over his body until traces of Novichok poison disappeared from it.

The Kremlin critic’s widow has publicly laid the blame for the death of her husband on Putin and vowed to continue his fight against the Kremlin and help make sure those responsible for his death are punished.

The EU, meanwhile, has called for an independent international investigation into Navalny’s death.

The Kremlin rejected the call, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying at a daily news conference on February 20 that “we do not accept such demands at all.”

Peskov also called Navalny’s widow’s accusation leveled against Putin “unfounded and vulgar,” prompting a sharp rebuke by Yulia Navalnaya.

“I do not give a damn how the press secretary of a murderer comments on my words,” Navalnaya, who has vowed to continue her husband’s work, wrote on X.

“Give back Aleksei’s body and let him be buried with dignity. Don’t stop people from saying goodbye to him,” she added.

When trying to access the account, users receive a message saying “Account suspended. X suspends accounts which violate the X Rules.” Less than an hour later, the account was reactivated without explanation.

She created the account on February 19, three days after her husband’s death.

Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said on X, formerly Twitter, on February 19 that Russian officials had told the family that it would take two weeks for their analysis of the body to be completed.

“The investigators told the lawyers and Aleksei’s mother that they would not give them the body. The body will be under some sort of ‘chemical examination’ for another 14 days,” Yarmysh wrote.

“They lie, buy time for themselves, and do not even hide it,” she said.

European Union foreign ministers in Brussels called for additional sanctions against Moscow to hold it responsible for the death of Navalny.

“Russia must allow an independent and transparent international investigation into circumstances of his sudden death,” the ministers said in a statement.

“The EU will spare no efforts to hold Russia’s political leadership and authorities to account, in close coordination with our partners; and impose further costs for their actions, including through sanctions,” the statement said.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry on February 20 summoned Russia’s ambassador over Navalny’s death.

“The ministry called on Russian authorities to take responsibility for the death of Aleksei Navalny and conduct a full and transparent investigation to determine the circumstances and cause of his death,” the ministry said in a statement.

Navalny is the latest on a significant list of Putin foes who have ended up dead under suspicious circumstances abroad or at home, where the Kremlin has clamped down ruthlessly on dissent and free speech since the Ukraine invasion began.

Since the announcement of his death on February 16, Russian police have cordoned off memorial sites where people were laying flowers and candles to honor Navalny and dispersed and arrested more than 430 suspected violators in dozens of cities.

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