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Navalny's body given to his mother, his team says

WARSAW, Poland — The body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been handed to his mother more than a week after he died in an Arctic prison colony, his team said on Saturday.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, died on February 16 in one of Russia's toughest prisons in northern Siberia.

He was serving a 19-year sentence on charges denounced by Putin's critics as political retribution for his opposition activity.

"Alexei's body was handed over to his mother," a spokesperson for Navalny's team, Kira Yarmysh said on X, formerly Twitter. "Many thanks to all those who demanded this with us."

For a week, Russian officials had refused to give Lyudmila Navalnaya custody of her son's body.

She had travelled to the town of Salekhard in the Yamalo-Nenets region, the nearest settlement to the prison colony where Navalny died, to recover it.

On Friday, Navalny's team said they had filed a lawsuit to obtain the body. They accused local officials of having threatened to bury him on the prison grounds if his mother did not agree to a "secret" funeral.

On Saturday, plans for the funeral were still unclear, Yarmysh wrote on X.

"Lyudmila Ivanovna is still in Salekhard. The funeral is still pending," she wrote.

"We do not know if the authorities will interfere to carry it out as the family wants and as Alexei deserves."

His team has already argued that the Kremlin is trying to block a public funeral, which could turn into a show of support for Navalny's movement and his opposition to Putin.

The Russian leader, who famously never said Navalny's name in public, has not commented on the death of his most vocal critic.

His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has criticised statements by Navalny's wife and Western leaders blaming Putin for his death as "vulgar".

Russian authorities said Navalny died of "natural causes" after he lost consciousness following a walk in the prison colony, nicknamed "Polar Wolf".

His team denounced officials' initial refusal to release his body -- their refusal for days to let his mother even see it -- accusing them of trying to "cover their tracks".

G7 leaders, in a statement Saturday praising Navalny's "life fighting against the