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Navalny buried at Moscow cemetery after prison death

Published March 1, 2024last updated March 1, 2024

Crowds chanted "Navalny, Navalny!" as his coffin was carried into the church for his funeral service. Proceedings had taken place amid a heavy security presence and warnings that protests would not have been allowed.

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Alexei Navalny into the church for his funeral service
Relatives and supporters gathered at a church in southeastern Moscow to bid farewell to Alexei NavalnyImage: AP/dpa/picture alliance

Thousands of people turned out in Moscow for the funeral of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny on Friday.

Many carried flowers and shouted support for the man who was one of  President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critics. 

Russian security forces maintained a significant presence at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, a Russian Orthodox church, and the Borisovskoye cemetery, where Navalny was laid to rest. 

Navalny died at the age of 47 under mysterious circumstances during his imprisonment at a remote prison camp on February 16.

Mourners in Moscow risk arrest to attend Navalny's funeral

Support for the prominent Putin critic

Earlier, as his coffin was carried into the church by four pallbearers,  some outside chanted: "Navalny, Navalny!" People also shouted, "You weren't afraid, neither are we!" and later "No to war!"

Some people openly protested against Russian President Vladimir Putin shouting "Russia without Putin!" "Putin is a murderer!" "Russia will be free!"

Following the service, his coffin was again carried out of the church to applause and more chanting from the crowds as the short journey to the cemetery began.

Police officers walk past people gathered outside the church, ahead of the funeral service of opposition leader, Alexei Navalny
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny's funeral and burial is taking place amid a heavy security presenceImage: REUTERS

A photo from inside the church showed an open casket with Navalny's body covered with red and white flowers, as his mother, wearing a black headscarf and with a candle in one hand, sat alongside his father nearby.

Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, who did not return to Russia for the funeral, posted a video tribute to her husband on social media thanking him for "26 years of absolute happiness."

Western diplomats, including German Ambassador Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, US Ambassador Lynn Tracy and French Ambassador Pierre Levy also attended the service.

Boris Nadezhdin and Yekaterina Duntsova, anti-war politicians who had attempted to run against Putin in this month's presidential election but were not allowed on the ballot, also attended the funeral.

Nadezhdin told DW that Navalny's death was a tragedy and emphasized that his name is still "symbolic" for millions of Russians: "Look at the queue waiting here to say goodbye to him."

In a Telegram message, Duntsova wrote, "He will never see spring again, because here, where he left, he got winter and the permafrost of the Arctic Circle, and there, where he is going, there will only be eternal summer." 

On social media, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised "couragious Russians" who turned out to pay their respects to Navalny, while the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said that "Navalny's beliefs will not disappear."

More than a quarter of a million people watched the events on Navalny's YouTube channel, which is blocked inside Russia.

Kremlin threats

A crowd of thousands marched from the church to the nearby Borisovskoye Cemetery after the funeral service.

"We won't forget you!" and "Forgive us!" some mourners shouted as the coffin arrived for burial.

People walk towards the Borisovskoye cemetery during the funeral of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny
A crowd gathered near the cemetery where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was buriedImage: REUTERS

Some 400 mourners have been detained at Navalny memorials since his death, rights organization OVD-Info has said, but no arrests were reported on Friday despite warnings from the Kremlin. 

"Any unauthorized gatherings will be in violation of the law and those who participate in them will be held responsible," spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian state media agency TASS.

According to the rights monitoring group OVD-Info, Russian police detained at least 67 people in 16 towns across the country at tributes to Navalny. OVD-Info said 18 people were detained in the Siberian city of Novosibirskto and added that six people had been detained in Moscow.  

Masked riot police officers stand near the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God, in Moscow
Riot police could be seen in the area around the church and burial site of opposition leader Alexai NavalnyImage: picture alliance/AP

Navalny's family struggled for his burial

Russian authorities handed over Navalny's body to his mother days after his death following repeated demands. His mother refused to hold a burial in secret.

Navalny's team has alleged that they had been looking for a place to bury his body, but Russian authorities created hurdles in the process.

Navalny's team has alleged that he was murdered at the behest of Putin as the critic was likely to be freed in a potential prisoner swap.

While Navalny's allies have not provided any evidence to support their allegations, they have vowed to seek clarity about his death.

Meanwhile, the accusations have been dismissed by Russia and his death certificate states that Navalny died of natural causes.

lo,kb,mfi/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)