Funeral of Kremlin critic Navalny to be held in Moscow on Friday

Widow of the Russian opposition leader unsure whether his funeral will pass off peacefully after Russia blocked memorial service plans.

Candles burn as people attend a vigil following the death of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny [File: Benoit Tessier/Reuters]Published On 28 Feb 202428 Feb 2024

The funeral of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who died earlier this month in a remote Arctic penal colony, will be held in Moscow on Friday, his family and spokesperson have said.

Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya announced the funeral date on Wednesday, but she said she was unsure if it would pass off peacefully and that plans for a civil memorial service had been blocked.

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“The funeral will take place the day after tomorrow and I’m not sure yet whether it will be peaceful or whether police will arrest those who have come to say goodbye to my husband,” Navalnaya said in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The funeral will be held at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God in Moscow’s southeast Maryino district on Friday afternoon, Navalny spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said on the social media platform X, after several locations declined to host the service.

He will then be buried at the Borisovskoye cemetery, about 2.5km (1.5 miles) away on the other side of the Moskva River.

Navalny’s allies have accused the Kremlin of thwarting their attempts to organise a separate civil memorial service in a hall which could have accommodated more people. The Kremlin has said it has nothing to do with such arrangements.

“Two people – Vladimir Putin and [Moscow Mayor] Sergei Sobyanin – are to blame for the fact that we have no place for a civil memorial service and farewell to Alexei,” Navalnaya wrote on X.

“People in the Kremlin killed him, then mocked Alexei’s body, then mocked his mother, now they are mocking his memory.”

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in Navalny’s February 16 death at age 47 and his death certificate – according to his supporters – says he died of natural causes.

Alexey Navalny and his wife Yulia during an opposition rally in Moscow, on October 27, 2013 [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

‘Putin killed my husband’

Yarmysh spoke of the difficulties his team encountered in trying to find a site for a “farewell event” for Navalny.

Writing on X, she said most venues said they were fully booked, with some “refusing when we mention the surname ‘Navalny’”, and one disclosing that “funeral agencies were forbidden to work with us”.

Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said the funeral was initially planned for Thursday – the day of Putin’s annual address to Russia’s Federal Assembly – but no venue would agree to hold it then.

“The real reason is clear. The Kremlin understands that nobody will need Putin and his message on the day we say farewell to Alexey,” Zhdanov wrote on Telegram.

In Navalnaya’s Wednesday speech before European lawmakers, she said, “Putin killed my husband … On his orders, Alexey was tortured for three years. He was starved in a tiny stone cell, cut off from the outside world and denied visits, phone calls and then even letters.”

In the 12 days since her husband’s death, Navalnaya has staked a claim to take on the leadership of Russia’s fragmented opposition, saying she will continue his work.

Speaking in English, her voice sometimes faltering, she described Putin as a “bloody monster” and told lawmakers it was not possible to negotiate with him.

“You cannot hurt Putin with another resolution or another set of sanctions that is no different from the previous ones,” she said, calling for more effective action against the money flows of Russia’s ruling elite.

Navalny’s allies have accused Putin of having him murdered because the Russian leader could allegedly not tolerate the thought of Navalny being freed in a potential prisoner swap, but they have not published proof to back up that accusation.

The Kremlin has denied state involvement in his death and has said it was unaware of any agreement to free Navalny.

Source: News Agencies