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Russia to keep Navalny’s body for ‘at least two weeks’

Russian investigators will keep Alexei Navalny’s body for “at least two weeks” to conduct an examination of the corpse, his spokesperson has said.

Russia reported Mr Navalny’s death on Friday after prison authorities said he suddenly dropped dead following a walk in the ‘Polar Wolf’ penal colony but have yet to announce the official cause of death.

His mother has since been denied access to the body.

“Investigators told Alexei’s mother and lawyers that they are not handing over the body and in the next 14 days they will conduct a chemical analysis, an investigation,” spokesperson Kira Yarymsh said in a YouTube broadcast.

The death of the 47-year-old, a former lawyer, robs the disparate Russian opposition of its most charismatic and courageous leader as President Vladimir Putin prepares for an election that will keep him in power until at least 2030.

People lay flowers and light candles next to posters of Alexei Navalny at the Russian Embassy in Bucharest, Romania

The West and Mr Navalny’s supporters have dismissed the Russian prison service’s statement. Western leaders have cast Mr Putin as a killer and said he is responsible for his death.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has pledged that Mr Putin will be held to account for Mr Navalny’s death after he met the opposition leader and Kremlin foe’s widow.

Mr Putin has made no public comment but Russian officials scolded Western leaders for rushing to conclusions about the death, which has further deepened a schism in relations between Moscow and the West caused by the Ukraine war.

Mr Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila, was told on Saturday at the prison colony that he had perished from “sudden death syndrome”, a vague term for different heart conditions that end in death, according to the Navalny team.

“The cause of death is ‘undetermined’,” she said, accusing the Russian authorities were lying and stalling.

His mother and lawyers were not allowed into the morgue today in the Arctic town near the prison colony where the authorities said he dropped dead, Ms Yarmysh said.

“Asked if Alexei’s body was there, the staff did not answer,” she added.

“For at least two weeks they will do some kind of inspection,” she said. “I’ll say it again: Navalny’s body is being hidden to hide the traces of the murder. This 14-day ‘chemical analysis’ is an outright lie and mockery,” she said in a subsequent statement on social media site X, the former Twitter.

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Mr Navalny’s death came just as Russian forces made their biggest advance in the Ukraine war since May 2023 and as the West debates how much more support to give to Kyiv after a counteroffensive last year failed to pierce Russian lines.

US President Joe Biden on Friday blamed Mr Putin for Mr Navalny’s death and warned there could be consequences.

However, it is unclear what more the West can do after imposing on Russia what it says are already the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a major economy over the Ukraine war. Russia’s economy grew 3.6% in 2023.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the reaction of Western leaders to Mr Navalny’s death was “absolutely rabid”.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the reaction of the West and its media demonstrated “their hypocrisy, cynicism and unscrupulousness”.

“In any situation, the script is always: ‘blame Russia’,” Ms Zakharova said.

Trump breaks silence on Navalny death

Donald Trump ended his lengthy silence on the death of Mr Navalny, in a statement that avoided criticism of the Kremlin and instead portrayed the Russian opposition leader’s sudden passing as a sign of a collapsing United States.

“The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our country,” Mr Trump said on his Truth Social website.

“It is a slow, steady progression, with crooked, radical left politicians, prosecutors and judges leading us down a path to destruction.”

Mr Trump decried “open borders, rigged elections and grossly unfair courtroom decisions” in the United States, which he called “a nation in decline”.

The post did not mention the Russian government or Mr Putin.

Trump has a history of praising Vladimir Putin, calling him a ‘genius’ and more credible than US intelligence (file image)

The former US president’s initial silence on the matter had the day before drawn criticism from his main challenger for the Republican nomination.

“The fact that he won’t acknowledge anything with Navalny – either he sides with Putin and thinks it’s cool that Putin killed one of his political opponents, or he just doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Nikki Haley said on ABC’s ‘This Week’ programme.

Mr Trump recently stunned Western allies after saying he would “encourage” Russia to attack members of the NATO military alliance who had not met their financial obligations.

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