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Navalny’s body ‘abused’, says widow as she calls Putin a ‘mobster’

Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of late Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, said on Wednesday that her late husband’s body had been abused.

It came as allies of Mr Navalny said his funeral will be held in Moscow on Friday in what is likely to be a challenge for Russian authorities who have been arresting those involved in public displays of mourning.

Mr Navalny died 12 days ago in a remote Russian penal colony where he was serving 19 years on extremism charges. He was 47.

Holding back tears as she spoke at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mrs Navalnaya called Vladimir Putin a “mobster” and “criminal gang leader”.

“Putin is the leader of an organised criminal gang,” said Mrs Navalnaya, who has blamed the Russian president for her husband’s “murder”. “You are not dealing with a politician but with a bloody mobster.”

Mrs Navalnaya also said that she fears disruption and arrests at her husband’s funeral.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny died at the age of 47 - Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters
Tributes to Mr Navalny in front of the Russian embassy in Armenia
Tributes to Mr Navalny in front of the Russian embassy in Armenia - KAREN MINASYAN/AFP via Getty Images

Hundreds of people have already been arrested after laying flowers in Mr Navalny’s memory in Moscow and other cities across the country.

“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,” she told the European Parliament.

Kira Yarmysh, Mr Navalny’s spokesman, posted on social media that a service would be held on Friday at 2pm Moscow time in the district of Maryino where Mr Navalny used to live.

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

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.

It was not immediately clear how the authorities would ensure crowd control, but a heavy police presence is likely.

Mr Navalny’s allies have accused the Kremlin of thwarting their attempts to organise a bigger event a day earlier.

“We started to look for a church and a hall for 1 March. Everywhere they refused to give us anything. In some places we were told it was forbidden,” said exiled ally Ivan Zhdanov.

“We don’t care about the message. Alexei needs to be buried... To have a chance to say goodbye, it is better to come in advance,” he added.

Authorities resisted handing Mr Navalny’s body to his family for eight days in what his team said was an attempt to “cover” up who was responsible for his death and prevent a public burial.

His team previously said authorities had threatened to bury him on the prison grounds where he died unless his family agreed to a private ceremony.

Russian authorities said Mr Navalny died of “natural causes” after he lost consciousness following a walk in his prison colony, nicknamed Polar Wolf.

Putin, who famously never referred to the opposition leader by name, has so far remained silent on his death.