Alexei Navalny funeral surrounded by safety however hundreds of Russians attend | EUROtoday

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MOSCOW — Thousands of Russians who risked arrest Friday to attend the Moscow funeral of opposition chief Alexei Navalny have been thwarted by an enormous pressure of riot police, deployed to make sure that President Vladimir Putin’s charismatic rival was buried with as little fanfare as attainable.

But the throngs of supporters who braved the safety presence despatched a robust message that many Russians nonetheless help Navalny’s imaginative and prescient of a free, democratic Russia — and confirmed his pivotal position as a person who fearlessly defied Putin from jail, even because the Russian chief led his nation into battle with Ukraine and a brand new period of repression and intolerance.

Navalny, a formidable opponent who fired up a era of younger Russians together with his slogan “Russia will be free,” died Feb. 16 in jail at age 47, with an official investigation declaring that his dying was as a consequence of “natural causes.” His widow, Yulia Navalnaya, and aides have accused Putin of his “murder,” whereas many Western leaders have stated Putin was accountable.

In pictures: Alexei Navalny’s funeral attracts hundreds of mourners to Moscow church

Navalny’s supporters, blocked from coming into the church by riot police and steel safety boundaries, applauded and chanted “Navalny! Navalny!” as his hearse arrived for the farewell service. Inside Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows Church, the service was carried out with what supporters stated was unseemly haste.

After his mom had paid her respects, workers brusquely closed his coffin, at the same time as these current pleaded to be allowed to say a correct farewell, in response to Russian outlet Verstka.

“Please let me say goodbye! Well, please, don’t close the coffin!” mourners within the church pleaded with the funeral brokers, in response to a video posted by RusNews. “He is dear to us! Please, let us say goodbye!”

Among the few allowed within the church have been Navalny’s mother and father, Anatoly Navalny and Lyudmila Navalnaya, the latter having endured an eight-day ordeal to recuperate her son’s physique from a morgue within the Arctic city of Salekhard. Officials there had threatened that until she agreed to a small personal burial, they might enable the physique to decompose or bury it on the Polar Wolf jail, the place Navalny died, she stated on the time.

Navalny’s widow Yulia, daughter Daria, son Zakhar and brother Oleg, in addition to members of his political staff, couldn’t attend Friday’s funeral as they stay overseas for safety causes.

Both his widow and mom had expressed their agency want for an open funeral, with Yulia Navalnaya insistent that his supporters have the prospect to say farewell within the conventional approach, inserting flowers on his coffin.

But authorities erected a whole lot of steel safety boundaries, blockading the doorway to the church and close by Borisovsky Cemetery, stopping the group from coming into or inserting flowers throughout the church service or graveside burial.

As Navalny’s physique was lowered into the bottom, a funeral band performed Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” adopted by the theme of the film “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” one in all Navalny’s favorites.

A couple of of the hundreds of residents who flocked to the cemetery have been later admitted and allowed to toss earth on the casket, however Navalny ally Ruslan Shaveddinov stated the majority of the group was blocked by police, “and it looks like the bigger part of people won’t be able to say goodbye today.”

The distinction between Navalny’s rushed funeral, attended by ardent supporters, and Putin’s grandiose state-of-the-nation handle a day earlier couldn’t have been starker. The Russian president stood alone on an enormous stage because the nation’s supreme chief and spoke for about two hours to an viewers of Russia’s elite, lots of whom appeared to wrestle to remain awake.

Navalny’s widow bid farewell to him Friday in an Instagram message, saying, “Thank you for 26 years of absolute happiness. Yes, even the last three years of happiness,” referring to his imprisonment on returning to the nation in 2021 after recovering in Germany from poisoning by Russian safety brokers.

She remembered that he made her snicker “even from prison,” and “you always thought about me.” Navalnaya, who has vowed to hold on his political work to oppose Putin and construct a free, liberal Russia, wrote that she would do her greatest to make him completely satisfied and proud.

“I don’t know if I can handle it or not, but I will try.” She ended her message, “Love you forever. Rest in peace.”

What to find out about Yulia Navalnaya as she vows to tackle Vladimir Putin

For a era of younger pro-democracy activists, Navalny’s burial represents the dying of their dream for a fairer, democratic, Europe-facing Russia, as casualties mount within the battle towards Ukraine and Putin, decided to cling to energy, crushes even trivial dissent inside Russia. A clean protest placard, a scrawl of graffiti or a social media submit will be punished with a prolonged jail time period.

Even from jail, remoted from his household and supporters, Navalny reduce Putin right down to dimension, lacerating his corrupt, aggressive regime and the battle Navalny believed had smeared all Russians with Ukrainian blood.

Putin, who has sharply curtailed democratic rights and freedom of speech, portrays civil activists and opposition democrats similar to Navalny as paid Western brokers who’re working to destroy the nation from inside.

But Navalny emerged as a specific menace to the Kremlin due to his humor, vitality, enchantment to a younger new era of activists and capability to mobilize a community throughout the nation.

Alexei Navalny, imprisoned Russian opposition chief, is lifeless at 47

Many of the hundreds ready in line exterior the church understood the dangers of attending, amid the warnings of attainable arrests, however got here anyway. On a chilly, overcast day, the road stretched for blocks, with folks bundled up in winter coats and clutching bouquets of flowers.

Only a handful received wherever close to the church, the cemetery, or Navalny’s coffin, after partitions of masked riot police divided and managed the crowds, hemming them in with steel barricades.

“I feel my utter helplessness in this moment — the authorities just showed us how total and powerful their grip is on us,” stated Sergei, 50, a Moscow businessman.

“It was a total blockade,” he stated, declining, like different mourners, to offer his full title out of concern of reprisal by Russian authorities. “They allowed us to gather here, but that was it. We could do nothing, see nothing, say nothing.”

But others stated it was the primary time in two years that they “could breathe,” an opportunity to stroll with mates, cry and chant Navalny’s title.

Dmitri, 29, and Vassilisa, 28, each mates, stated they have been “very happy” that individuals had turned out of their hundreds, permitting them to really feel a flicker of freedom.

“This is the first time in several years that I haven’t felt alone,” stated Vassilisa. “To live in silence is just suffocating. We have all seen today that we are not alone.”

Alexander, 25, stated he had attended all the road protests earlier than the battle. On Friday, he wore a balaclava to attempt to keep away from detection by Moscow’s video surveillance system.

“I am scared, to be honest,” he stated. “But for me, Navalny was strength, bravery and love.”

Russia’s elite stayed away from Navalny’s funeral. One Russian businessman, requested concerning the funeral, declined to remark as a result of “the situation is such now … well, you understand yourself.”

“A young, strong and brave person has died. Of course, it’s terrible, but what can you do? This is how life is now. Terrible. Please don’t mention me.”

Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, stated Russia’s elite wouldn’t help Navalny, no matter their personal emotions, as a result of “they are frightened. They are in the same submarine as Putin. And not one of them can say a word.”

He added that although Putin had obliterated Russia’s political opposition, many individuals nonetheless got here to attend the funeral.

This present of defiance from Russian civil society threatens Putin’s regime, he stated, “in the sense that it undermines the myth that people have absolutely consolidated around the powers-that-be.

“There is the sense that there are many people who are dissatisfied with the current regime. Those that have come to say farewell to Navalny are expressing exactly this,” he stated.

When Navalny’s mother and father left the church, showing emotional, mourners exterior cried out “Thank you! Thank you for your son!” and scattered flowers on the hearse.

Ebel reported from Moscow; Dixon from Riga, Latvia; Ilyushina from Berlin; and Belton from London.