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Alexei Navalny’s parents, supporters gather in Moscow as opposition leader is laid to rest

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

Kremlin warned against any unauthorized gatherings Friday

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

Navalny was buried at a cemetery in the snowy southeastern outskirts of the capital after a short Russian Orthodox ceremony, with vast crowds waiting outside the church and then streaming to the fresh grave of President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critic with flowers and anti-government chants.

Although riot police set up barricades at both the church and cemetery, no detentions were reported.

His supporters said several churches in Moscow refused to hold the service before Navalny's team got permission from one in the capital's Maryino district, where he once lived.

Mourners hold candles beside the open casket of a deceased man, with several people in religious garments shown.

The Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, which agreed to hold the service, did not mention it on its social media page. Authorities lined the road from a nearby subway station to the church with crowd-control barriers, and riot police deployed in big numbers early Friday.

After the hearse arrived at the church, the coffin could be seen on livestreamed footage being taken out of the vehicle, as the crowd applauded and chanted: "Navalny! Navalny!"

A photo from inside the church showed an open casket with Navalny's body covered with red and white flowers, and his mother sitting beside it holding a candle.

Hours before the funeral started, hundreds waited to enter under the watch of police. Western diplomats were spotted in the long line. Sarah Taylor, Canada's ambassador to Russia, had been expected to attend, CBC News learned.

Presidential hopefuls Boris Nadezhdin and Yekaterina Duntsova were also seen. Both wanted to run against Russian President Vladimir Putin in the presidential elections later this month, each opposing the war in Ukraine. Both were declared ineligible to run.

WATCH l Some shout 'Russia without Putin' despite risk:

Supporters gather for Alexei Navalny's funeral, despite the risk

17 hours ago

Duration 2:47

Members of the public in Russia gathered for Alexei Navalny's funeral on Friday in Moscow, as did some diplomats, including Canada's ambassador to Russia, CBC's Briar Stewart reports.

'26 years of absolute happiness'

Burial took place in the nearby Borisovskoye Cemetery, where police also showed up in force. Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, spent eight days trying to get authorities to release the body following his Feb. 16 death at Penal Colony No. 3 in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region about 1,900 kilometres northeast of Moscow.

Anatoly Navalny, the politician's father, was also seen entering the church on Friday.

An older man and woman are shown standing above a casket containing a younger man.

Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, is outside the country. Just two days ago, she addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

She paid tribute to her husband on social media platform X shortly after his burial, thanking him for "26 years of absolute happiness."

"I don't know how to live without you, but I will try my best to make you up there happy for me and proud of me," she said. "I don't know if I'll manage it or not, but I will try."

Navalny's daughter, Dasha, is a student at the Stanford University in California, and the whereabouts of his teen son, Zakhar, are unknown.

Colleague calls for global rallies

At least one funeral director said he had been "forbidden" to work with Navalny's supporters ahead of the service, the spokesperson for Navalny's team, Kira Yarmysh, said on social media. There were also delays in finding a hearse.

Yarmysh urged Navalny's supporters around the world to lay flowers in his honour Friday.

An elevated view shows a long line of hundreds of people moving in an outdoors setting.

"Everyone who knew Alexei says what a cheerful, courageous and honest person he was," Yarmysh said Thursday. "But the greater truth is that even if you never met Alexei, you knew what he was like, too. You shared his investigations, you went to rallies with him, you read his posts from prison. His example showed many people what to do when even when things were scary and difficult."

Sergei Bardin, 29, was among those heading to the funeral.

"I'm going to the funeral because I've been supporting Alexei Navalny since 2013," he told CBC News.

WATCH l Moscow crowd gathers peacefully, some chanting Navalny's name:

'Navalny!': Crowds chant Russian opposition leader's name ahead of funeral

20 hours ago

Duration 0:35

People gathered in Moscow on Friday to honour Alexei Navalny — a leading critic of President Vladimir Putin — who died in a Russian prison last month.

Bardin said he expected a large crowd, but probably not tens of thousands due to several factors. Many have fled the country to avoid military service in the Ukraine war, he said, while the actions of Russian authorities since Navalny's death probably discouraged others.

"They just create all these obstacles for people to actually attend the funeral, the church service," he said.

Liliya Manikhina, organizer of a group who write letters to political prisoners, among other activities, also attended. She said it was "a very scary, black, grey time when you can't express your opinion on this or that issue" in Russia.

"The authorities were afraid of Navalny alive. Then the authorities are afraid of Navalny dead, the authorities are afraid of Navalny's body and the authorities are afraid of girls who carry flowers to the Solovetsky Stone [monument for victims of repression] after Navalny's death," said Manikhina.

From a distance, four men are shown lifting a coffin on their shoulders. The faces of two men are visible.

Russian authorities still haven't announced the cause of death for Navalny, 47, who crusaded against official corruption and organized big protests as Putin's fiercest political foe. Many Western leaders blamed the death on the Russian leader, as Navalny — who had survived a 2020 poisoning attempt — was being imprisoned on a host of terrorism and corruption charges that supporters and Western leaders characterized as politically motivated.

The Kremlin angrily rejected the accusations.

Navalny-Nemtsov memorial not allowed

It was not immediately clear who among Navalny's family or allies would attend the funeral, with many of his associates in exile abroad due to fear of prosecution in Russia. Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation and his regional offices were designated as "extremist organizations" by the Russian government in 2021.

WATCH l Hear Navalny urge supporters to carry on Putin opposition in Oscar-winning film:

What Navalny wanted supporters to do if he died: ‘Get back to work’

14 days ago

Duration 7:51

In Daniel Roher’s documentary, Alexei Navalny told his supporters his death would be a sign of the opposition’s strength. The Canadian director told The National’s Ian Hanomansing Navalny would want his supporters not to mourn his death, but fight Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow authorities refused permission for a separate memorial event for Navalny and slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on Friday, citing COVID-19 restrictions, politician Yekaterina Duntsova said Thursday. Nemtsov, a 55-year-old former deputy prime minister, was shot to death as he walked on a bridge adjacent to the Kremlin on the night of Feb. 27, 2015.

"Just a reminder that we have a law that must be followed. Any unauthorized gatherings will be in violation of the law, and those who participate in them will be held accountable — again, in line with the current law," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a call to reporters.

Peskov declined to give any assessment of Navalny as a political figure and said he had nothing to say to Navalny's family.

With files from CBC News and Reuters

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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