Russian authorities have transferred the body of opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny to his mother, his spokesman said Saturday, ending a bitter custody battle over his remains, but it is unclear whether he will have a funeral he can attend. the public. .

“Aleksei’s body has been handed over to his mother,” Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said in a statement. aware on social networks. “The funeral is yet to come. “We don’t know if the authorities will interfere so that this happens the way the family wants and how Aleksei deserves.”

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, was still on Saturday in the northern city of Salekhard, near the Arctic prison where Navalny was reported to have died on February 16, Yarmysh said. He added that the opposition leader’s team would release information about the funeral “as it becomes available.”

Navalny’s family and aides have accused Russian authorities of holding his body hostage and “blackmailing” his mother into agreeing to secretly bury him. On Friday, Yarmysh said Salekhard officials had given Navalnaya an ultimatum demanding that he agree to such a secret funeral within three hours, or else he would be buried on prison grounds.

That deadline expired Friday night without any new information from Navalny’s aides. Russian authorities have not commented on Navalny’s team’s version of events. The circumstances of Mr. Navalny’s death remain unclear; According to Yarmysh, Navalnaya received a medical report earlier this week that said he had died of natural causes.

The news that Navalnaya, 69, was given custody of the body suggested that Russian authorities had relented after a days-long social media campaign by Navalny’s team. On Saturday, Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, 47, posted a six-minute video on YouTube denouncing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for defaming the Christian values ​​she professes by “mocking Aleksei’s mother and forcing her to accept a secret funeral.” .”

The question now is how Navalny’s funeral will unfold. The dispute over custody of his body appears to reflect Kremlin fears that a public funeral in Moscow could become a flashpoint for protests.

By Sam