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Navalny’s family lays opposition leader to rest after death in prison

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MOSCOW: relatives and supporters of Alexei Navalny bid farewell to leader of the opposition has funeral Friday in southeast Moscow following a battle with authorities over the release of his body after his still-unexplained death in an Arctic penal colony. His supporters say several Moscow churches refused to hold the service before Navalny’s team obtained permission from a church in the capital’s Maryino district, where he once lived before his 2020 poisoning, his treatment in Germany and his arrest upon his return to Russia.
The Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, which agreed to hold the service, did not mention it on its social media page. Authorities lined the road connecting a nearby subway station to the church with crowd control barriers, and riot police deployed in large numbers Friday morning.
A hearse headed toward the church with Navalny’s body, his team said.
Burial was to follow at the nearby Borisovskoye cemetery, where police also showed up in force.
Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, spent eight days trying to get authorities to release the body after his death on February 16 in Penal Colony No. 3 in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region, about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.
Authorities initially said they could not release the body because they needed to carry out post-mortem analyses. Navalnaya, 69, made a video appeal to President Vladimir Putin to release the body so she could bury her son with dignity.
After the information was released, at least one funeral director said he had been “banned” from working with Navalny supporters, Navalny team spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on social networks. They also couldn’t find a hearse for the funeral.
“Unknown people are calling people and threatening them not to take Alexei’s body anywhere,” Yarmysh said on Thursday.
Russian authorities have still not announced the cause of death of Navalny, 47, who fought against official corruption and staged large protests as Putin’s fiercest political foe. Many Western leaders blamed the Russian leader’s death, something the Kremlin angrily rejected.
It was not immediately clear who among Navalny’s family or allies would attend the funeral, with many of his associates in exile abroad for fear of prosecution in Russia. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and its regional offices were designated as “extremist organizations” by the Russian government in 2021.
The political team said the funeral would be broadcast live on Navalny’s YouTube channel.
His widow, Yulia Navalnaya, accused Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin of trying to block a public funeral.
“We don’t want any special treatment – just to give people the opportunity to say goodbye to Alexei in a normal way,” Yulia Navalnaya wrote on X. In a speech to European parliamentarians on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, she also expressed fears that police might interfere with the gathering or “arrest those who came to say goodbye to my husband.”
Moscow authorities on Friday refused permission to hold a separate memorial event for Navalny and slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, citing COVID-19 restrictions, politician Yekaterina Duntsova said on Thursday. Nemtsov, a 55-year-old former deputy prime minister, was shot dead while walking on a bridge adjacent to the Kremlin on the night of February 27, 2015.
Yarmysh also urged Navalny supporters around the world to lay flowers in his honor on Friday.
“Everyone who knew Alexei says what a cheerful, courageous and honest person he was,” Yarmysh said Thursday. “But the bigger truth is that even if you never met Alexei, you also knew what he looked like. You shared his investigations, you went to gatherings with him, you read his messages on prison. His example showed many people what to do, even when things were scary and difficult. »
Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said his funeral was originally planned for Thursday – the day of Putin’s annual state of the nation address – but no venue had agreed to hold it at this moment.
In an interview with independent Russian news site Meduza, Zhdanov said authorities had pressured Navalny’s relatives to “hold a quiet family funeral.”



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