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Russia: Over 100 detained at Alexei Navalny's funeral as thousands chant anti-Putin slogans

Navalny was buried at the Borisovskoye cemetery in the presence of his parents Anatoly and Lyudmila, along with his supporters. Thousands chanted anti-Putin slogans as his body was taken out of the hearse and carried inside the church for the funeral service.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Moscow Published on: March 02, 2024 10:32 IST
Russia, Alexei Navalny funeral, Moscow
Image Source : REUTERS Thousands walk towards the cemetery were Alexei Navalny was buried.

Moscow: At least 115 people were detained on Friday during the funeral service and burial of deceased Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, CNN reported citing the monitoring group OVD-Info. Novosibirsk witnessed the highest detentions, with 16 individuals taken into custody, while ten people were detained in Moscow.

Navalny was laid to rest in the Church of Icon of the Mother of God in Moscow, in the presence of thousands of his supporters who bid him farewell amid heavy police presence. Navalny suddenly died at an Arctic penal colony on February 16, where he was serving a 30-year sentence, under unknown circumstances.

At least ten people were detained in Yekaterinburg and 14 were held in the Voronezh region. People were also detained in Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Vladikavkaz, Sochi, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan and Ulan-Ude, among other cities, according to OVD-Info.

Navalny's widow Yulia and 23-year-old daughter also shared a tribute to the anti-corruption activist, who had long been a thorn in Russian President Vladimir Putin's side. The funeral followed a battle with authorities over the release of his body. His team said several Moscow churches refused to hold the funeral for the man who crusaded against official corruption and organized massive protests. Many Western leaders blamed the death on the Russian leader, an accusation the Kremlin angrily rejected.

Thousands chant anti-Putin slogans

As Navalny's coffin was removed from the hearse and taken inside the church, the crowd waiting outside broke into respectful applause and then chanted: “Navalny! Navalny!” Some also shouted, “You weren’t afraid, neither are we!” and later “No to war!” “Russia without Putin!” and “Russia will be free!” Western diplomats, including US Ambassador Lynne Tracy, were among the mourners.

At a cemetery not far from where Navalny once lived, his mother Lyudmila and father Anatoly stooped over his open coffin to kiss him for the last time as a small group of musicians played. Mourners stepped forward to caress his face before a priest gently placed a white shroud over him and the coffin was closed.

The coffin was lowered into the ground. In keeping with his irreverent sense of humour, music from the “The Terminator 2" was played, a movie his allies said he considered “the best in the world.” Police were present in large numbers at what evolved into one of the biggest displays of anti-Kremlin dissent in years, but for the most part did not intervene.

Public demonstrations in Russia are risky and rare, especially since the start of the war in Ukraine. "There are more than 10,000 people here, and no one is afraid," said a young woman, Kamila, in the crowd. "We came here in order to honour the memory of a man who also wasn't afraid, who wasn't afraid of anything."

What did Navalny's wife and daughter say?

Tensions were high ahead of his funeral because the authorities had outlawed Navalny's movement as extremist and cast his supporters as US-backed troublemakers out to foment revolution. Previous gatherings of his supporters have been broken up by force. The Kremlin said any unsanctioned gatherings in support of Navalny would violate the law and those who took part would be held accountable.

Navalny's wife Yulia and two children, who are living outside Russia, did not attend the funeral. Paying tribute to her late husband on X, Yulia wrote, "Thank you for 26 years of absolute happiness... I don’t know how to live without you, but I will try to make you up there happy for me and proud of me. I don't know if I can handle it or not, but I will try. We will definitely meet one day."

“Ever since I was a child, you taught me to live by certain principles. To live with dignity. You gave your life for me, for mum, for (my brother) Zakhar, for Russia,” Navalny's daughter wrote on Instagram. “I promise you that I will live my life in the way that you taught me, in a way that will make you proud — and most importantly, with a smile on my face.”

Mourners streamed by his open grave, tossing handfuls of soil onto the coffin as a large crowd waited at the cemetery’s entrance. As dusk fell, workers shoveled dirt into the grave while Navalny's mother Lyudmila watched, aside a mound of flowers, funeral wreaths, candles and his portrait. Lyudmila, 69, had travelled to the "Polar Wolf" penal colony after his death and battled with authorities for a week to get them to release his body. She accused them of putting pressure on her to bury him without a public funeral, something the Kremlin denied.

Even on Friday, a Moscow morgue delayed releasing the body, according to Ivan Zhdanov, Navalny’s close ally and director of his Anti-Corruption Foundation. Authorities near the penal colony originally said they couldn’t release the body because they needed to conduct post-mortem tests. Lyudmila Navalnaya made a video appeal to Putin to release it so she could bury her son with dignity.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Russian opposition leader and Putin critic Alexei Navalny laid to rest in Moscow | WATCH

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