Russia Withholds Alexei Navalny's Body From His Family | Crooked Media
February 23, 2024
What A Day
Russia Withholds Alexei Navalny's Body From His Family

In This Episode

  • The mother of deceased Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said that authorities are “blackmailing” her over his remains to get her to agree to a secret funeral. Sanctions on more than 500 targets in Russia are expected from the U.S. State and Treasury Departments Friday for the Russian government’s suspected role in Navalny’s death.
  • Saturday marks two years since Russia invaded Ukraine. The U.N. says that nearly 6.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country and become refugees in that time. We heard from one of those refugees about that transition and her life in Poland, which war has turned into her family’s new home.
  • And in headlines: a Texas judge rules that one student’s locs are not protected by the CROWN Act, two more clinics stop IVF services in Alabama, and the MyPillow Guy is out $5 million for his devotion to Stopping The Steal.


Show Notes:





Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Friday, February 23rd. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What a Day. Taking a moment to welcome any pandas that may come to the United States from China. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, China just reported that they’re sending two to the San Diego Zoo. But we’ll take any extra pandas they have as well. 


Juanita Tolliver: Just throw it in one of the guest rooms. Right? Like– 


Josie Duffy Rice: –Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: I feel like this could work out really well for us. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The panda is going to have to be in my room, and I’m okay with that. [laughter] Why not? [music break] On today’s show, a Texas judge ruled it’s okay that a school repeatedly punished a Black student who wore his hair in locs. Plus, MyPillow founder Mike Lindell bet $5 million that nobody could prove him wrong about election interference. And now he has to pay $5 million. 


Juanita Tolliver: But first, the mother of Alexei Navalny, Lyudmila Navalnaya, announced via video yesterday that Russian authorities are, quote, “blackmailing her over her son’s remains.” In the video, Ms. Navalnaya described being taken to a morgue on Wednesday night, where local authorities showed her Navalny’s remains and warned her that if she did not, quote, “agree to a secret funeral,” then “they will do something with [his] body.” She also added, quote, “they are setting me conditions on where, when and how Alexei should be buried,” and quote, “I want those of you who valued Alexei and take his death as a personal tragedy, to have the chance to say farewell to him.” All of this comes after Ms. Navalnaya filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in an effort to get her son’s body, and a closed door hearing on that matter was scheduled for March 4th, as well as after hundreds of people across Russia have been arrested for publicly mourning Navalny’s death. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we’ve been following these arrests, obviously on the show and the kind of public reaction. Has there been any shift in how world leaders are reacting to his death after this update from his mom, or is it staying consistent? 


Juanita Tolliver: I would say consistent because as Ms. Navalnaya’s video was posted on social media on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was taking a flight on a supersonic bomber and giving press interviews about the nuclear weapon capabilities of the aircraft. This is all part of his tour ahead of next month’s election. But a voice that has emerged as part of the opposition in Russia is Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya. According to The Associated Press, Yulia has decided to continue her husband’s work by leading the Russian opposition and coordinating with other opposition groups to challenge Putin. Yesterday, she and her daughter Dasha Navalnaya met with President Biden in San Francisco, where he expressed his condolences. Here’s what President Biden told reporters after his meeting with Navalny’s family. Take a listen. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] To state the obvious he was a man of incredible courage and it’s amazing how his wife and daughter are emulating that. We’re going to be announcing the sanctions against who who is responsible for his death tomorrow. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So tomorrow is now, today, obviously. So what else do we know about the sanctions that are being rolled out? 


Juanita Tolliver: According to a Treasury spokesperson, the U.S. will impose sanctions on more than 500 targets today, and the sanctions will come from both the State Department and the Treasury Department. As Biden mentioned in his comments, the targets will include Putin directly. And earlier this week, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing that the new sanctions, quote, “will be a substantial package covering a range of different elements of the Russian defense industrial base, and sources of revenue for the Russian economy that power Russia’s war machine, that power Russia’s aggression, and the power of Russia’s repression.” And this announcement of new sanctions is particularly significant, as today marks two years since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Thanks for that update, Juanita. Now let’s focus on that invasion and give you a sense of how it’s upended the lives of so many Ukrainians for so long. The war started in the early morning of February 24th, 2022. 


[clip of unknown news reporter] [sound of explosion in the distance] The war in Ukraine has begun. 


[clip of unknown news reporter] We heard the sound of explosions here in Kyiv. First of all, three large, distinct explosions in the distance. 


[clip of unknown news reporter] That sounded like a fighter jet overhead. 


[clip of unknown news reporter] [someone speaking in Russian] I decided to conduct a special military operation. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] The Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine. Without provocation, without justification, without necessity. This is a premeditated attack. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s been this very long, brutal fight that continues to this day. And in those two years, the UN says nearly 6.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country and are now refugees. And we wanted you to meet one of them who lives in Poland. Her name is Daria Khrystenko.


[clip of Daria Khrystenko] I remember when we first came, we had a feeling that it will be for several months. I came with my mom and my son, and my mom was sure that by May she will be home. It’s already a second year and we don’t see that it’s coming. 


Josie Duffy Rice: As the war dragged on, what she and others needed began to change. It started to shift from needing aid to needing to feel normal again. 


[clip of Daria Khrystenko] The first weeks, first months of the war, they just needed some basic supports like food, some money and they just needed some place to sleep and to understand what to do next. And now, after almost two years, they need stability. We need to think of integrating adults and children into the society, because most often they don’t have homes to return. 


Josie Duffy Rice: To help her own family and others find that stability in Poland, Daria works as the emergency education manager for the organization CARE. She says there are an estimated one million Ukrainians in Poland, and 180,000 of them are children who are not in school. That’s more than half of the kids there. Daria gets them enrolled, she arranges activities for them, and she sets up ways that they can connect with their Polish neighbors. One of the kids that she helps is her own. 


[clip of Daria Khrystenko] I have a son who goes to Polish school. The child needs to speak the language. The child needs to find friends. The child needs to have some kind of activities, sport activities, some psychological support. And we have several centers in different cities where children can come. And they can, of course, that in the language they can fill in some knowledge gaps. They can just have theater or guitar classes or something else. They can meet with Polish peers and go to the cinema or play basketball or football. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So this is their new life, starting over and trying to feel normal again. And Daria says that after two years, home may no longer be in Ukraine. Home may be where they are now in Poland. 


[clip of Daria Khrystenko] What I hear from my friends, from just the community, from Ukrainians, they both planned to return and they don’t no longer do. You know, for many people who have settled in, who have sent their children to school, who have found some kind of stability, some kind of work opportunities, it’s been for two years. This is difficult to leave it all and to start from scratch, even though in your own country. But it will be starting from scratch again. I should be just honest and to say that this is what our life is now, let’s just make it the best life for the current situation. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s Daria Khrystenko, a Ukrainian refugee living in Poland. She works as the emergency education manager for the organization CARE. We’ll have a link to her organization in our show notes. And special thanks to Alyona Minkovski with Pod Save the World for providing us with that conversation. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, thinking through this entire heartbreaking experience that Daria, her children, and the million other Ukrainians in Poland are experiencing, it’s just a reminder that the destruction was the goal. Making sure Ukrainians did not have a place to return to was the goal of Russia and Vladimir Putin, and that’s just a heartbreaking reality. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So more on all of this very soon. But that is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads. [music break] 




Juanita Tolliver: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Juanita Tolliver: A mosque was razed and several homes destroyed in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, amid bombings carried out by Israeli forces yesterday. At least 97 people were killed and 130 wounded in the attacks, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are seeking refuge in Rafah, but the city is still bracing for a potential ground invasion by Israeli forces. A cease fire could forestall that invasion, and Israeli media is reporting that Israel will send negotiators to Paris today for truce talks with the US, Qatar, and Egypt. Zooming out to examine the devastating cost of the war in Gaza so far, more than 29,000 Palestinians are dead and 69,000 injured or missing, according to Palestinian Health Authority. And an estimated 85,000 more Palestinians could be dead in six months if the war continues at this pace, according to calculations made by a group called Gaza Projections. It’s no wonder that this week the director general of the World Health Program called Gaza, quote, “a death zone.” 


Josie Duffy Rice: Our country continues to restrict the acceptable ways that kids can exist, with a Texas judge ruling yesterday that it was okay for a high school in the state to suspend a Black student for wearing his hair in locs. The student is 18 year old Darryl George, and since last August, he has been subject to disciplinary action and not been able to attend his regular classes because of his hairstyle, which he says he adopted as an expression of his cultural heritage. Administrators at George’s school say his locs violate their dress code’s restriction on hair length for boys, and according to yesterday’s ruling, the state’s Crown Act does not offer George any protection, even though it says that a school district, quote, “may not discriminate against a hair texture or a protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race.” This outcome is shocking and also very not shocking at the same time. But the legal battle isn’t over because George’s lawyers said they would appeal. George and his mother have also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against school officials and Texas state leaders. Here’s George speaking ahead of the decision yesterday. 


[clip of Darryl George] It just makes me feel angry, very angry that, you know, throughout all these years, throughout all the all the fighting for the Black history that we that we’ve already done, we still have to do this again and again and again is is ridiculous. 


Juanita Tolliver: It is so ridiculous. And I appreciate– 


Josie Duffy Rice: –So ridiculous. 


Juanita Tolliver: –Darryl and his family for not letting this go, for not just cutting his hair off like we’ve seen sadly, tragically, other Black students have to do in the moment. And I appreciate Darryl and his family standing on this, but I’m also mourning the loss that Darryl is probably experiencing from his educational experience and how this truly upends his life. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The idea that his hair could be more of a disruption than keeping a child out of school for six months. 


Juanita Tolliver: Imagine. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It really is so crazy. 


Juanita Tolliver: Two more IVF clinics in Alabama announced a pause in services yesterday, citing concerns about the state Supreme Court ruling that defines frozen embryos as children. Alabama Fertility and the center for Reproductive Medicine at Mobile Infirmary both put out statements saying that they’re working hard to find answers about what the ruling means for IVF patients and embryologists. But in the meantime, they have to put patient care on hold. Meghan Cole, an Alabama fertility patient, told NBC News on Thursday that her surrogate was set to receive one of her embryos today, but her doctor canceled the appointment at the last minute. She said, quote, “I thought it was going to be one of the best days of our lives, and now we’re just devastated.” I feel like this is one of what will be hundreds of personal stories about people trying to have children and not being able to because of this ruling. And it really doesn’t help when you have a senator like Tommy Tuberville saying, we need more kids, we want more kids. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: And not realizing that IVF is a way that a lot of families have children. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: This comes just one day after the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the state’s largest health care provider, paused IVF treatments, citing legal concerns. In other reproductive rights news, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin filed a petition yesterday asking their state Supreme Court to throw out an abortion law from 1849 as unconstitutional. This is the second time the 175 year old law has been challenged since the overturning of Roe v Wade. The High Court has yet to take up the case, but abortion advocates hope that the court’s new Liberal majority will side with them so they can challenge other abortion restrictions in the state. And this is your daily reminder that state and local elections matter a whole lot. 


Josie Duffy Rice: A whole lot. 


Juanita Tolliver: Because this election happened in 2023 for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. And if that didn’t have a positive outcome and get the Liberal majority on the court, this might be a whole different story. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yep. And wrapping up with some good news. Keep your eyes peeled for possible discounts on the MyPillow website. Conservative bedding magnate, and election denier, Mike Lindell has been ordered to pay out $5 million by a federal judge, and he’s going to need to find that money somewhere. Of course, this penalty stems from Lindell’s total devotion to the stop the steal cause. I wish anyone was as devoted to me as Mike Lindell is to stop the steal. 


Juanita Tolliver: [laughing] Oh, I don’t know actually, like, don’t spew conspiracy theories for me though. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, yeah, it’s a little much. It’s a little stalkery. Back in 2021, Lindell claimed that he had evidence that China caused Trump’s election loss, and he hosted an event called Prove Mike Wrong with a $5 million prize offered to anyone who could show that his evidence of interference by China was not authentic. Well, I bet you can guess where this is going. Someone did do that. They proved them wrong. And when Lindell refused to pay up, that man took him to court and won on Wednesday. Lindell says he plans to appeal, but I doubt he’s sleeping easy, even with all those beautiful pillows. And the crazy thing about this is that Trump can’t even lend him the money [laughter] because Trump owes–


Juanita Tolliver: When all your friends are broke. [laughing]


Josie Duffy Rice: Let me tell you something. If someone gave you $5 million. I’m not betting anything that may be wrong. I’m putting that money away. 


Juanita Tolliver: Especially not my personal delusional conspiracy theories, like that ain’t it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m not going to pull numbers from the internet and say, prove me wrong. Crazy. And those are the headlines. 




Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, buy a heavily discounted pillow and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just lease terms for new panda tenants like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver.


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


[spoken together] And make yourselves at home pandas. 


Juanita Tolliver: I think the other selling point about my neighborhood is that there is bamboo available. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That is a selling point. 


Like I can just go take some from like down in the cul de sac across the way, [laugh] and we can make this work. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s true. [music break] 


Juanita Tolliver: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Jon Millstein, Greg Walters and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Leo Duran and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.