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Navalny Mourners Defy Putin and Chant: ‘We Are Not Afraid!’

Reuters
Reuters

Hundreds of mourners assembled in Moscow Friday for the funeral of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in spite of a heavy police presence around the church where the life of Vladimir Putin’s fiercest domestic critic will be celebrated.

Applauding supporters chanted Navalny’s name and the slogan “you were not afraid, and we are not afraid” as the hearse carrying his coffin arrived at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God in a suburb of the Russian capital. The funeral comes after Navalny’s death on Feb. 16 at the age of 47 in an Arctic penal colony.

Navalny’s Widow Says ‘Mobster’ Putin Must Pay Ahead of Friday Funeral

Navalny’s allies—who have accused the Kremlin of murdering the activist—attended the funeral despite the very real risk that doing so could lead to their arrest. Activists at earlier memorials in the wake of Navalny’s death have been detained, with Russian authorities treating his following as an extremist movement. His supporters said several churches had outright refused to hold the funeral service.

A burial is due to take place after the service at the nearby Borisovskoye cemetery, which was sealed off with metal barriers on Friday morning.

Foreign diplomats including Lynne Tracy, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, were spotted in the long line of mourners who gathered for the funeral. She was photographed holding flowers alongside her German and French counterparts.

Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had warned people in Moscow and elsewhere not to break laws, reminding them that “unauthorized gatherings” are illegal, according to Reuters. He also declined to make any assessment of Navalny as a political figure on a call to reporters and said that he had nothing to say to Navalny’s grieving relatives.

Navalny’s mother publicly called out Putin in the days after her son’s death, accusing authorities of refusing to hand over the body. Even as late as Friday morning, the morgue where Navalny’s body was being held delayed its release, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation Ivan Zhdanov said.

No formal explanation has been given for Navalny’s demise, with his death certificate merely citing natural causes, his allies said. The Kremlin has denied being responsible, though Navalny’s supporters have vowed to ultimately prove Putin had him murdered.

Maria Pevchikh, another director of Navalny’s foundation, has already publicly claimed that Navalny’s death came as a prisoner swap deal to secure his freedom was in its “final stage.” She further alleged that Putin gave the order for Navalny’s death after realizing that the West would be willing to free an imprisoned FSB assassin as part of some type of exchange, and that he could simply wait for another “bargaining chip” to eventually offer in Navalny’s place.

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