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Navalny鈥檚 widow vows to continue his fight against the Kremlin and punish Putin for his death

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny鈥檚 widow has vowed to continue his fight against the Kremlin while authorities denied his mother access to a morgue where his body is believed to be held (Feb 19).

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The widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny vowed on Monday to continue his fight against the Kremlin, while authorities denied his mother access to a morgue where his body is believed to be held after his death last week in an Arctic penal colony.

With her voice cracking at times in a video posted on social media, Yulia Navalnaya accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of killing her husband in the remote prison and alleged that officials鈥 refusal to hand over the body to her mother-in-law was part of a cover-up.

Russian authorities said that the cause of Navalny鈥檚 death Friday at age 47 is still unknown 鈥 and the results of any investigation are likely to be questioned abroad. Many Western leaders have already said they hold Putin responsible for the death.

Navalny鈥檚 death has deprived the Russian opposition of its most well-known and inspiring politician less than a month before an election that is all but certain to give Putin another six years in power. It dealt a devastating blow to many Russians, who had seen Navalny as a rare hope for political change amid Putin鈥檚 unrelenting crackdown on the opposition.

Navalny had been imprisoned since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from a nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. He received three prison terms since his arrest, on a number of charges he has rejected as politically motivated.

鈥淭hey are cowardly and meanly hiding his body, refusing to give it to his mother and lying miserably while waiting for the trace of鈥 poison to disappear, Navalnaya said, suggesting her husband might have been killed with a Novichok-style nerve agent.

She urged Russians to rally behind her 鈥渢o share not only the grief and endless pain that has enveloped and gripped us, but also my rage.鈥

Yulia Navalnaya, wife of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, addresses a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. European Union foreign ministers on Monday will discuss, among other issues, the situation in the Middle East and Russian aggression against Ukraine. (Yves Herman, Pool Photo via AP)

Yulia Navalnaya, wife of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, addresses a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024.(Yves Herman, Pool Photo via AP)

She continued: 鈥淭he main thing that we can do for Alexei and ourselves is to keep fighting. ... We all need to get together in one strong fist and strike that mad regime.鈥

On Monday, Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny鈥檚 Anti-Corruption Foundation, said Navalny鈥檚 body would not be given to his mother for 14 days while a chemical examination of it takes place, according to a Russian investigator.

Navalny spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said the Investigative Committee, the country鈥檚 top criminal investigation agency, informed Lyudmila Navalnaya that the official probe into the death had been extended. 鈥淭hey lie, buy time for themselves and do not even hide it,鈥 Yarmysh posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

With authorities offering no more information on the death after the brief initial statement, many Russians speculated about what might have happened to Navalny. Independent Russian outlets released reports attempting to shed light on his death. Some called into question the official narrative 鈥 but their reports were not possible to verify.

In this grab taken from video, Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, leaves the building of the Investigative Committee, regional department in Yamal-Nenets region in Salekhard, 1937 km (1211 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. Russians across the vast country streamed to ad-hoc memorials with flowers and candles to pay tribute to Alexei Navalny, the most famous Russian opposition leader and the Kremlin's fiercest critic. Russian officials reported that Navalny, 47, died in prison on Friday. (AP Photo)

In this grab taken from video, Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, leaves the building of the Investigative Committee, regional department in Yamal-Nenets region in Salekhard, 1937 km (1211 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (AP Photo)

In Brussels on Monday, Navalny鈥檚 widow met with European Union foreign ministers and other officials. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was mulling sanctions against Russia and he also called for an independent international investigation into the causes of Navalny鈥檚 death.

He said responsibility for Navalny鈥檚 death lies with 鈥淧utin himself, but we can go down to the institutional structure of the penitentiary system in Russia,鈥 to impose asset freezes and travel bans.

President Joe Biden said Monday his administration is also considering imposing additional sanctions on Russia.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski described Navalnaya as 鈥渧ery dignified, very composed,鈥 and urged his EU counterparts to act on Navalnaya鈥檚 request that the bloc impose sanctions on more of Putin鈥檚 backers, beyond the oligarchs and other senior Russian officials already being targeted.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov slammed the accusations from Western leaders as 鈥渂oorish鈥 and 鈥渋nadmissible.鈥

鈥淭hose statements can鈥檛 do any harm to the head of our state, but they certainly aren鈥檛 becoming for those who make them,鈥 Peskov said in a call with reporters.

A young woman lays flowers to pay the last respect to Alexei Navalny at the monument, a large boulder from the Solovetsky islands, where the first camp of the Gulag political prison system was established, near the historical the Federal Security Service (FSB, Soviet KGB successor) building in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. Russians across the vast country streamed to ad-hoc memorials with flowers and candles to pay tribute to Alexei Navalny, the most famous Russian opposition leader and the Kremlin's fiercest critic. Russian officials reported that Navalny, 47, died in prison on Friday. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A young woman lays flowers to pay the last respect to Alexei Navalny at the monument, a large boulder from the Solovetsky islands, where the first camp of the Gulag political prison system was established, near the historical the Federal Security Service (FSB, Soviet KGB successor) building in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A family pay tribute to Alexei Navalny at the monument, a large boulder from the Solovetsky islands, where the first camp of the Gulag political prison system was established in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. Russians across the vast country streamed to ad-hoc memorials with flowers and candles to pay tribute to Alexei Navalny, the most famous Russian opposition leader and the Kremlin's fiercest critic. Russian officials reported that Navalny, 47, died in prison on Friday. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
A family pay tribute to Alexei Navalny at the monument, a large boulder from the Solovetsky islands, where the first camp of the Gulag political prison system was established in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Yarmysh said that Navalny鈥檚 69-year-old mother and his lawyers were not allowed into the morgue in Salekhard, the capital of the Arctic Yamalo-Nenets region, on Monday morning. The staff didn鈥檛 answer when they asked if the body was there, Yarmysh said.

Asked when Navalny鈥檚 body could be handed over to his family, Peskov responded that the Kremlin was not involved in those proceedings, adding that the official probe was continuing in line with the law.

Observers said that the law allows authorities to keep the body for a long time if the investigation is ongoing and block any requests for an independent forensic study.

Navalny鈥檚 ally Ivan Zhdanov denounced the Russian authorities as 鈥渓ackeys and liars.鈥

鈥淚t鈥檚 clear what they are doing now 鈥 covering up the traces of their crime,鈥 he wrote Monday.

Since Navalny鈥檚 death, nearly 400 people have been detained by police in Russia as they streamed to ad-hoc memorials and monuments to victims of political repression with flowers and candles to pay tribute to Navalny, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors political arrests. The U.S. and British ambassadors also mourned Navalny鈥檚 death at a memorial in Moscow.

Authorities cordoned off some of the memorials across the country and were removing flowers at night, but they kept appearing.

Over 50,000 people have submitted requests to the Russian government asking for Navalny鈥檚 remains to be handed over to his relatives, OVD-Info said.

Russia鈥檚 Federal Penitentiary Service reported that Navalny felt sick after a walk Friday and became unconscious at the penal colony where he was being held. An ambulance arrived, but he couldn鈥檛 be revived, the service said.

After the last verdict that handed him a 19-year term, Navalny said he understood he was 鈥渟erving a life sentence, which is measured by the length of my life or the length of life of this regime.鈥

In her video statement, Navalnaya said: 鈥淏y killing Alexei, Putin killed half of me, half of my heart and half of my soul.鈥

鈥淏ut I still have the other half, and it tells me that I have no right to give up. I will continue the work of Alexei Navalny,鈥 she declared.