Alexei Navalny’s mother accuses Russian authorities of funeral ‘blackmail’

Joe Biden meets wife and daughter of Russian opposition leader in California ‘to express heartfelt condolences’

US president Joe Biden on Thursday met the wife and daughter of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in a Siberian prison last week, “to express his heartfelt condolences”, the White House said.

During the meeting in California, Mr Biden expressed his admiration for Navalny’s “extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia in which the rule of law applies equally to everyone”, the White House said in a statement.

“Today, I met with Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya – Alexei Navalny’s loved ones – to express my condolences for their devastating loss. Alexei’s legacy of courage will live on in Yulia and Dasha, and the countless people across Russia fighting for democracy and human rights,” Mr Biden said on X.

Mr Biden also affirmed that the United States will announce major new sanctions against Russia on Friday in response to Navalny’s death, Russia’s repression and aggression and its war in Ukraine, it added.


Navalny (47) fell unconscious and died suddenly on Friday after a walk at the Polar Wolf penal colony above the Arctic Circle where he was serving a three-decade sentence, the prison service said.

Navalny’s mother has said she has been shown the body of her son but that the authorities were “blackmailing” her into burying him in a secret ceremony without mourners.

In a video message on Thursday, Lyudmila Navalnaya said she was driven to a morgue on Wednesday evening where authorities showed her the body.

Ms Navalnaya said she recorded the video because she was being threatened into agreeing to a secret funeral for her son and that the authorities refused to give her his body unless she agreed to their terms.

“They want it to be done secretly, without a goodbye. They want to bring me to the edge of the cemetery, to a fresh grave and say: here lies your son. I don’t agree to that,” she said.

“They say that if I don’t agree to a secret burial, they will do something with my son’s body.”

Ms Navalnaya said the investigators threatened to let her son’s body rot unless he is buried in secret. “Time is not on your side, corpses decompose,” she was told.

She said she wanted everyone for whom Navalny’s death was “a personal tragedy” to have an opportunity to say goodbye to him.

Shortly after her message was published, Navalny’s team announced that a death certificate shown to her said the opposition leader died from “natural causes”.

Allies of Navalny described the authorities’ conduct surrounding his body as “medieval”.

“This kind of abuse of a dead body is hard to even imagine,” said Ivan Zhdanov, a close friend of the Navalny family.

Ms Navalnaya has been trying to retrieve her son’s body since Saturday, after he died in a penal colony in Russia’s far north a day earlier.

The Kremlin appears to be trying to make sure Navalny’s funeral does not turn into a public show of support for the opposition leader.

“Authorities fear Navalny’s funeral could turn into a political action,” wrote Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.

“But people mourn him calmly and with dignity, even though they are being persecuted for it,” he added, referring to the hundreds of Russians who have been detained while paying tribute to Navalny.

Yulia Navalnaya on Thursday repeated that the Russian president was personally responsible for the death, writing on X: “[Vladimir] Putin killed Navalny.”

The Kremlin denies all involvement in Navalny’s death. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Thursday described the west’s reaction to the death as “hysteria”. – Guardian/Agencies