April 24, 2024

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Alexei Navalny: Crowds chant defiance as they bid farewell to Navalny

Alexei Navalny: Crowds chant defiance as they bid farewell to Navalny

Video explanation,

Watch: Terminator 2 theme song plays during Navalny's burial

Thousands of Russians defied fear and came out to bid farewell to opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic died in prison on February 16.

Authorities warned that any protest would be illegal. But police – deployed in large numbers – stood by as the crowd chanted Navalny's name or their opposition to the Russian president.

Supporters and relatives, as well as several foreign leaders, have blamed Putin for his death.

Russian authorities deny any such accusation, saying Navalny died of natural causes. He was serving a long sentence on trumped-up charges in a penal colony in the Arctic.

It is feared that the authorities will crack down on funeral procedures on Friday.

In fact, on Friday morning, a heavy police presence appeared in Maryino, the area in Moscow where the funeral was held – and where Navalny has lived with his family for many years.

At one point, Navalny's team estimated that the line of people stretched more than 1 kilometer (0.6 mile), despite a gray winter day with temperatures just above freezing.

However, no police officers — many of whom were wearing full riot gear — intervened when expressions of support for Navalny became overtly political.

Thousands chanted “No to war”, “Russia without Putin” and “Russia will be free” – slogans that have previously led to the imprisonment of many Russians.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were among those who praised people who came out to mourn in light of the potential risks.

“This is it [Navalny’s] “Legacy. Eternal memory,” Macron wrote on social media.

The memorial service began after 14:00 Moscow time (11:00 GMT) in the Church of the Icon of Our Lady, Quench My Sorrows.

This followed so much uncertainty and complaints from Navalny's team that the authorities had made arrangements difficult, and even finding a body was a problem.

However, hundreds began arriving hours before the proceedings were scheduled to begin. They were later joined by foreign dignitaries, including the ambassadors of the United States, Germany and France.

Comment on the photo,

Thousands of people gathered in Moscow's Maryino district to pay their last respects to Alexei Navalny

The ceremony inside the church was short, as a photo on social media showed the open casket, which is common in Russia, with respect for mourners. Navalny's mother, Lyudmila, and his father, Anatoly, were seen sitting next to them.

As the church bell rang and Navalny's coffin was taken outside, people threw roses and carnations at the hearse and shouted: “We will not forget you!”

Several people approached Lyudmila after the service and hugged her, saying: “Thank you for your son” and “Forgive us.”

Navalny's widow Yulia, his children Daria, 23, and Zakhar, 15, and his brother Oleg, are believed to be living abroad and were not present.

Yulia recently announced that she will continue her political work, meaning it may be unsafe for her to return to Russia, where Navalny's anti-corruption foundation has been declared an extremist organisation.

She shared a touching tribute on social media as the funeral took place, thanking Navalny for “26 years of absolute happiness.”

She said: “I don't know how to live without you, but I will try to do it so that you – there – are happy and proud of me.”

Their daughter Daria also posted a message online, calling Navalny her “hero.”

“You have always been and will forever be my role model,” she wrote.

In the absence of independent Russian media, Navalny's team at the Anti-Corruption Foundation took it upon itself to provide a live broadcast of the funeral ceremony.

The YouTube channel, where Navalny regularly addressed his supporters, broadcast scenes from his funeral. More than a quarter of a million people followed it throughout the day.

The burial finally took place at the Borisovskoe cemetery at around 16:00.

Navalny's coffin was lowered into the ground to the sound of Frank Sinatra's “My Way” and an orchestral rendition of “Terminator 2.” “Navalny thought The Terminator 2 was the best movie in the whole world,” his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on social media.

As dusk fell, people continued to line up outside the cemetery, where a banner read: “Putin killed him but did not break him.”

One mourner told BBC NewsHour: “It is not time to be a coward. These people in our government are cowards because they are afraid of us.” “We're just people with flowers and graves. That's all.”

By Friday evening, at least 91 people had been arrested across Russia for participating in events commemorating Navalny, according to Russian human rights monitoring group OVD-Info.

OVD-Info is usually a reliable and often the only source of information when it comes to public protests in Russia.

However, by and large, the harsh and widespread crackdown that many feared has not materialized. In comparison, the authorities' response to people laying flowers on makeshift memorials in the wake of Navalny's death led to several hundred arrests.

It is possible that police will search for some of those who attended today's proceedings in the coming days. Earlier this week, it was reported that surveillance cameras had been installed around the cemetery.

Before the funeral, the First Department – a group of lawyers and human rights defenders – warned that arrests after the ceremony “cannot be ruled out” and advised mourners to “stay under the radar of the security forces – and not to use public transportation or public transport.” Apply for the papers in the days following the funeral.”

Online initiatives, such as a website where users can light a “virtual candle” for Navalny, have attracted hundreds of thousands of participants.

Friday's rally is likely to be the largest opposition gathering in Russia since Navalny's imprisonment in January 2021.

Many mourners may have felt that this was their last chance to gather with thousands of like-minded people.

For nearly a decade, Navalny has managed to organize protests and marches that often attracted tens of thousands in Moscow and beyond.

With him gone now, it's not clear who can attract the kind of public support he was able to muster.

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