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Alexei Navalny’s funeral: Detentions begin as Putin braces for arch-rival’s burial

Alexei Navalny’s funeral: Detentions begin as Putin braces for arch-rival’s burial

Alexei Navalny’s funeral: Detentions begin as Putin braces for arch-rival’s burial

Russian law enforcement has started detaining mourners hours before Alexei Navalny’s funeral begins, as a long line of people grows to enter the Moscow church where the srvice will take place.

The detentions confirm fears, expressed this week by Navalny’s widow Yulia, that authorities will crack down on those who want to pay their last respects to the opposition leader.

The rights group OVD-Info on Friday morning reported that four people had been detained as they set out from the southern city of Voronezh to attend Navalny’s burial service and funeral, which is set to take place later Friday on the outskirts of Moscow.

Among those detained was a local campaign coordinator for Boris Nadezhdin, the presidential hopeful who was disqualified from running against Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a vote later this month.

Nadezhdin, who attracted crowds of supporters by criticizing Russia’s war against Ukraine, has said he will attend the funeral. Yekaterina Duntsova, another opposition politician who was also disqualified from the electoral race, has also said she will be present. The results of the election to be held later this month are a foregone conclusion, with Putin certain to win again.

Since his sudden death in a penal colony north of the Arctic circle in February, Navalny’s team says it has faced constant obstruction from the Russian authorities.

Crowds gather ahead of a funeral service for late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny | Andrey Borodulin/AFP via Getty Images

The team has accused authorities of refusing to release Navalny’s body and then pressuring venues in Moscow not to stage his funeral.

As late as Thursday, on the eve of the funeral, Navalny’s spokesperson said they could not find a hearse to bring Navalny’s body to the Church of the Icon of Our Lady Quench My Sorrows in the neighborhood of Maryino, where the service is set to start at 2 p.m. local time. 

The service will be followed by a burial at a cemetery about a half-hour walk away. 

Although the Russian authorities have not explicitly banned the funeral or labeled it as illegal, there are signs they will be treating it as such. 

Russian media reported that police are barricading access to the church and lines of detention vans are already on site.

Several media outlets also reported that internet access in the neighborhood is glitchy.

In the days leading up to the funeral, a number of Russians told POLITICO they had received warnings from police not to attend any rallies.

Putin’s spokesperson Dmity Peskov said that the Kremlin has “nothing to tell to Navalny’s relatives.”

The story has been updated.

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Alexei Navalny,Russia,Russian politics,Vladimir Putin

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