subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now
Alexei Navalny. Picture: REUTERS
Alexei Navalny. Picture: REUTERS

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny's funeral service and burial will take place in Moscow on Friday, his spokesperson said, but his allies accused the Kremlin of thwarting their attempts to organise a bigger event a day earlier.

The spokesperson for the late activist, Kira Yarmysh, posted on X that a service for Navalny would be held on Friday at 2pm local time in the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God in the Moscow district of Maryino, where Navalny used to live.

Navalny would then be buried at the Borisovskoye cemetery, which is located on the other side of the Moskva River to the south, Yarmysh said.

Such services, presided over by a priest and accompanied by choral singing, usually allow people to file past the open casket of the deceased to say their farewell. The chosen Russian Orthodox church is an imposing five-domed white building in a built-up suburb of southeastern Moscow.

It was not immediately clear how the authorities would ensure crowd control.

But judging from previous gatherings of Navalny supporters — whom the authorities have designated as US-backed extremists — a heavy police presence is likely and the authorities will break up anything they deem to resemble a political demonstration under protest laws.

“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,” Navalny's wife, Yulia, said in a speech to the European parliament in Strasbourg, where she won multiple standing ovations.

Forty-seven year old Navalny died at an Arctic penal colony on February 16. His allies have accused President Vladimir Putin of having him murdered because the Russian leader could allegedly not tolerate the thought of Navalny being freed in a potential prisoner swap.

They have not published proof to back up that accusation, but have promised to set out how he was murdered and by whom.

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

Accusations

Navalny’s death certificate, according to supporters, said he died of natural causes.

Last week, his mother accused the authorities of trying to blackmail her into holding a private funeral for her son by initially withholding his body, an assertion the Kremlin called absurd.

Yulia Navalnaya told the European legislators in Strasbourg: “Putin killed my husband.”

“On his orders, Alexei 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,” she said.

“And then they killed him. Even after that they abused his body and abused his mother,”

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 legislators 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 the ruling elite.

What was needed, she said, was a search for “mafia associates in your countries, for discreet lawyers and financiers who are helping Putin and his friends to hide money.”

Funeral venue

Navalny’s allies had been looking for a hall to accommodate his supporters at a farewell ceremony, but said they had been refused everywhere.

“Initially we planned the farewell and funeral for February 29. It quickly became clear that there was not a single person who could dig a grave by February 29,” Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny ally, wrote on X.

February 29 is the same day that Putin is due to deliver a speech to Russia’s political elite, and Zhdanov accused the authorities of not wanting Navalny’s funeral to take place on the same day and overshadow it.

Zhdanov also accused the authorities of blocking attempts to secure a large hall for supporters to bid farewell to Navalny.

“Bastards. They won't give us the date we want. They won't give us the hall. Everyone will say goodbye to Alexei anyway,” wrote Zhdanov, who is outside Russia.

The Kremlin has said it has nothing to do with arrangements concerning Navalny's body.

Reuters

subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.