(Reuters) -The body of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalnywho died unexpectedly in prison nine days ago, was handed over to his mother on Saturday in the remote Arctic town of Salekhard, his spokesman said.

In a video recorded before the body was handed over, Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, accused the Russian president of being “demonic.” Vladimir Putin of “torturing” the corpse of a political opponent.

Navalny’s allies urged his supporters “not to relax” and his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh wrote on X that there was no certainty that Russian authorities would allow relatives to hold a funeral “the way the family wants and as Alexei deserves.”

In her six-minute video posted on YouTube, Navalnaya stated that she would continue the fight against Putin’s regime, questioned the president’s faith and accused him of holding her husband’s body “hostage.”

On Friday, Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila, said Russian investigators were refusing to remove his body from a morgue in Salekhard until she agreed to bury him without a public funeral.

He said an official had told him he should accept their demands, as Navalny’s body was already decomposing.

On Saturday, Navalny’s advisers said authorities had threatened to bury him in the remote penal colony where he died unless his family agreed to their conditions.

Since returning to the Russian presidency in 2012, Putin has positioned himself as a defender of traditional conservative values ​​against what he describes as corrosive Western liberalism.

He has also trumpeted his closeness to the Russian Orthodox Church, regularly appearing at services around religious festivals and speaking about his personal faith.

Navalnaya said her husband had been a devout Christian, who attended church and had fasted during Lent even while in prison. She said that her political activism had been inspired by Christian values.

(Reporting by Felix LightEditing by Tomasz Janowski and Clelia Oziel)

By Sam