Mourners brave arrest to attend Navalny's funeral
Friday, March 01, 2024       16:10 WIB

Moscow, March 1, 2024 (AFP)
The funeral of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is due to take place in Moscow on Friday, with mourners braving the risk of arrest to come and pay their respects.
The ceremony comes two weeks after Navalny died in an Arctic prison -- a death that his supporters have blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin, who famously never pronounced Navalny's name in public, has not commented on the death, which sparked outrage among Western leaders and the Russian opposition.
Authorities have not said how they will handle the event, which could turn into an embarrassing show of support for Navalny.
Under grey skies, dozens of mourners were waiting near the Mother of God Quench My Sorrows church in Maryino, where the service is scheduled to start at 2:00 pm (1100 GMT).
"We just don't have any more politicians like him," said Maria, a 55-year-old librarian, adding she was both "afraid and sad".
"I don't see anything illegal in coming to say goodbye to a great man," said Maxim, a 43-year-old IT specialist.
Fences had been put up around the church, but the passage was left open.
In line with Orthodox practices, Navalny's body will be displayed in an open casket.
- Details of funeral unclear -
Two hours later, the burial is set to take place at the Borisovo cemetery, a short walk from the banks of the Moskva River.
Dozens of law enforcement vehicles and some anti-riot police trucks were parked near the cemetery ahead of the ceremony.
An AFP journalist saw police officers holding helmets and tear gas canisters patrolling the area, including in the nearby subway stations.
Details of the funeral and how many mourners will be allowed to attend are still unclear.
Some 400 mourners have been detained at memorials for Navalny since his death, rights organisation OVD-Info has said.
The dissident's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, feared the funeral could be disrupted by further arrests.
"I'm not sure yet whether it will be peaceful or whether the police will arrest those who have come to say goodbye to my husband," Navalnaya told the European Parliament.
She has directly blamed Putin for his death.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has criticised the accusations made by her and some Western leaders as "vulgar".
- 'Tortured for three years' -
Navalny had shot to prominence through his anti-corruption campaigning, exposing what he said was rampant graft at the top of Putin's administration.
He was arrested in January 2021 when he returned to Russia after being treated in Germany for a poisoning attack.
"Alexei was tortured for three years," Navalnaya told lawmakers in Brussels.
"He was starved in a tiny stone cell, cut off from the outside world and denied visits, phone calls, and then even letters."
"And then they killed him. Even after that, they abused his body," she said.
His body was held in a morgue for eight days before being returned to the family, which Navalny's team believed to be a bid to cover up responsibility for his death.
His family and his team have also accused authorities of trying to prevent him from having a dignified public burial due to fears it could turn into a flashpoint for dissent.
The team alleged local investigators had threatened to bury him on the prison grounds if his mother did not agree to a "secret" funeral.
Once the body was released, allies struggled to find a place that would agree to hold a funeral ceremony.
On Thursday they said hearse drivers were refusing to take the body from the morgue due to threats.
And a civil ceremony allowing the general public to pay their respects to the body -- common in Russia -- has not been allowed.
Navalnaya said the family "did not want a special treatment -- just to give people the chance to say goodbye".
She has vowed to continue his life's work.
"The most important thing we can do for Alexei and for ourselves is to continue to fight more desperately, more fiercely than before," she said.

Sumber : AFP