Putin foe buried in Moscow

UNDER a heavy police presence, thousands of people bade farewell Friday, March 1, 2024, to opposition leader Alexei Navalny at his funeral in Moscow after his still-unexplained death two weeks ago in an Arctic penal colony.

The crowds who thronged to honor Navalny outside a church and cemetery in a snowy southeastern suburb of the capital chanted slogans for him and against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine, turning the event into one of the largest recent displays of dissent. But police did not act against them.

At least 91 people were detained at events across Russia in Navalny’s memory, said OVD-Info, a rights group that tracks political arrests, with most stopped while trying to lay flowers at monuments dedicated to victims of Soviet repression. When his death was announced Feb. 16, police detained hundreds who tried to leave flowers.

Navalny was buried after a short Russian Orthodox ceremony, with vast crowds waiting outside the church and then streaming to the fresh grave with flowers.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia, who was not seen at the funeral but has vowed to continue his work, lovingly thanked him for “26 years of absolute happiness.”

“I don’t know how to live without you, but I will try to do it in a way that you up there are proud of me and happy for me,” she wrote on Instagram.

Navalny’s 23-year-old daughter, Daria, also shared a tribute to her father.

“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,” she 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.”

Refused

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.

Navalny’s team eventually got permission from the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, which was surrounded by crowd-control barriers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged those gathering in Moscow and other places not to break the law, saying any “unauthorized (mass) gatherings” are violations.

Russian authorities still haven’t announced the cause of death for Navalny, who was 47. His team cited paperwork that Lyudmila Navalnaya saw that listed “natural causes,” although the day before his death he had appeared in court via video link joking with officials.

Navalny died at Penal Colony No. 3 in the town of Kharp in the Yamalo-Nenets region about 1,900 kilometers northeast of Moscow.

Poisoned

Navalny had been jailed since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow to face certain arrest after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. His Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his regional offices were designated as “extremist organizations” by the Russian government that same year. / AP

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