Putin critic Alexei Navalny ‘died his own death’, says Russian spymaster

Image Source : AP Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s funeral in Moscow.

Moscow: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny ‘died his own death’ – due to natural causes – said Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) chief, Sergei Naryshkin on Tuesday. Navalny, Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent, died last month, aged 47, in an Arctic penal colony last month and there has been widespread speculation over the Russian President’s involvement in his death.

“I don’t think this was some kind of special plan, but unfortunately, people have a peculiarity: sooner or later life ends, they die. Navalny died a natural death, yes,” Russian news agencies quoted Naryshkin as saying. The SVR chief also said he found vocal reactions in the West to Navalny’s death “revolting”.

“Of course, it is quite revolting when satanic dances are performed in the West around Navalny’s coffin,” he said. “It is immoral, low and unethical. What else is there to say? It was totally predictable”. These remarks came as Navalny’s allies claimed he was murdered on the instructions of Putin, but the Kremlin has denied any state involvement in his death.

Navalny died on February 16 at Penal Colony No. 3 in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region about 1,900 kilometres northeast of Moscow where he was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism. Russian authorities still haven’t announced the cause of his death and Western leaders have blamed Putin for his death, an accusation the Kremlin angrily rejected.

Alexei Navalny laid to rest

Navalny was buried Friday in a Moscow suburb in a funeral that drew thousands of mourners amid a heavy police presence. His team said several Moscow churches refused to hold the funeral. Navalny had been jailed since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow to face certain arrest after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin.

Navalny’s coffin was carried from the hearse into the church amid loud chants of “Navalny! Navalny!”. A religious service for Navalny was held in the church after which the opposition leader was buried at the Borisovskoye cemetery, around 2.5 km (1.5 miles) away on the other side of the Moskva River. Navalny’s mother Lyudmila Navalnaya was present at the funeral along with US and French ambassadors to Russia Lynne Tracy and Pierre Levy respectively.

At least 115 people were detained on Friday during the funeral service and burial of deceased Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, the most arrests being in Novosibirsk. Several people shouted anti-Putin slogans like “You weren’t afraid, neither are we!” and later “No to war!” “Russia without Putin!” and “Russia will be free!” during Navalny’s funeral in Moscow.

Public demonstrations in Russia are risky and rare, especially since the start of the war in Ukraine. “There are more than 10,000 people here, and no one is afraid,” said a young woman, Kamila, in the crowd. “We came here in order to honour the memory of a man who also wasn’t afraid, who wasn’t afraid of anything.”

Navalny’s mother Lyudmila had spent eight days to get authorities to release her son’s body as officials claimed that they needed to conduct post-mortem tests. She made a video appeal to Putin to let her bury her son with dignity. Even on the day of the funeral, a Moscow morgue delayed releasing the body, according to Ivan Zhdanov, Navalny’s close ally and director of his Anti-Corruption Foundation. Authorities near the penal colony originally said they couldn’t release the body because they needed to conduct post-mortem tests.

(with inputs from agencies)

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