Navalny’s widow fears arrests at Friday funeral

Navalny’s widow fears arrests at Friday funeral

Yulia Navalnaya urges European lawmakers to find better ways to punish Putin and allies

The Borisovskoye cemetery in Moscow is where the burial of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny is scheduled to take place on Friday. (Photo: Reuters)
The Borisovskoye cemetery in Moscow is where the burial of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny is scheduled to take place on Friday. (Photo: Reuters)

MOSCOW - The funeral of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny will take place in Moscow on Friday, his spokesperson said, as his widow pleaded with European lawmakers to find better ways to punish Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his "mafia" allies.

Kira Yarmysh posted on X that a service for Navalny would be held on Friday at 2pm in the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God in the Moscow district of Maryino where Navalny used to live.

Navalny would then be buried at the Borisovskoye cemetery, located on the other side of the Moskva River to the south, Yarmysh said.

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 farewells. The chosen Russian Orthodox church is an imposing five-domed white building in a built-up suburb of southeastern Moscow.

It was not immediately clear how the authorities would ensure crowd control.

But judging from previous gatherings of Navalny supporters — whom the authorities have designated as US-backed extremists — a heavy police presence is likely and the authorities will break up anything they deem to resemble a political demonstration under protest laws.

“The funeral will take place the day after tomorrow and I’m not sure yet whether it will be peaceful or whether police will arrest those who have come to say goodbye to my husband,” Navalny’s wife Yulia said in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where she won multiple standing ovations on Wednesday.

Navalny, 47, died at an Arctic penal colony on Feb 16. His allies have accused Putin of having him murdered because the Russian leader could not tolerate the thought of Navalny being freed in a potential prisoner swap.

They have not published proof to back up that accusation, but have promised to set out how he was murdered and by whom.

The Kremlin has denied state involvement in his death and has said it is unaware of any agreement to free Navalny prior to his death.

Navalny’s death certificate, according to supporters, said he died of natural causes.

His mother last week accused the authorities of trying to blackmail her into holding a private funeral for her son by initially withholding his body, an assertion the Kremlin called absurd.

Yulia Navalnaya told the European lawmakers in Strasbourg: “Putin killed my husband.”

“On his orders, Alexei was tortured for three years. He was starved in a tiny stone cell, cut off from the outside world and denied visits, phone calls and then even letters,” she said.

“And then they killed him. Even after that they abused his body and abused his mother.”

In the 12 days since her husband’s death, Navalnaya has staked a claim to take on the leadership of Russia’s fragmented opposition, saying she will continue his work.

Speaking in English, her voice sometimes faltering, she described Putin as a “bloody monster” and told lawmakers it was not possible to negotiate with him.

“You cannot hurt Putin with another resolution or another set of sanctions that is no different from the previous ones,” she said, calling for more effective action against the money flows of the ruling elite.

What was needed, she said, was a search for “mafia associates in your countries, for discreet lawyers and financiers who are helping Putin and his friends to hide money”.

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