Navalny spokesperson says Russia opposition leader ‘murdered’ and demands body be returned to family News
Evgeny Feldman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Navalny spokesperson says Russia opposition leader ‘murdered’ and demands body be returned to family

Alexei Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said on Saturday that the Russian opposition leader was “murdered” and demanded that Navalny’s body be “handed over to his family immediately.” His death was formally announced by Russia’s state prison service on Friday, which said that he had lost consciousness and could not be resuscitated. Navalny was a prominent opposition leader in Russia and was serving a sentence at a penal colony located north of the Arctic Circle.

Yarmysh said on X (formerly Twitter) that the Investigative Committee was investigating Navalny’s body and notified the family that his body will not be given to relatives until checks are completed. His body was transferred from the penal colony to Salekhard in order for the checks to take place. Yarmysh further added that one of Navalny’s lawyers, who went to the Salekhard Investigative Committee where the body is allegedly being held, was informed that the cause of his death was not yet established.

Yarmysh asserts that authorities are lying and attempting to avoid giving the body to Navalny’s family. Navalny’s mother and lawyers traveled to Salekhard’s morgue to investigate this further and attempt to claim the body, where they discovered that the body was not in the morgue. The circumstances have created suspicion surrounding the cause and nature of Navalny’s death.

Navalny was a key opposition figure in Russian, and his death was met with thousands of mourners taking to the streets to hold vigils. In 2022, Navalny was found guilty of fraud and contempt of court, and sentenced to 9 years imprisonment. In 2023, he was sentenced to 19 years on numerous additional charges. Shortly before his death, in January this year, Navalny filed a claim against the Russian Ministry of Justice for mistreatment in the Siberian prison where he was being held. His account on X said on Wednesday that he was given 15 days in a punishment cell in the Yamalo penal colony. He stated that this was his fourth punishment cell in less than 2 months.

Navalny survived an assassination attempt in 2020 when he was poisoned. He was sent to Germany for treatment and returned to Russia in 2021. Many people attributed the assassination attempt to the Kremlin.  A case was brought against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights for the authorities’ failure and refusal to “investigate in criminal proceedings plausible claims,” including:

[P]oisoning with a chemical nerve agent prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention; Inadequate pre-investigation inquiry fell short of being public and made no allowance for the victim’s right to participate in the proceedings; and failure to investigate possible political motive for attempted murder, involvement or collusion of State agents and the reported use of a prohibited substance.

The judgement was handed down in June 2023. International law reinforces duty of care obligations on states regarding anyone in their custody.