Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 1 March 2024

NAVALNY FUNERAL

By Francesca Ebel, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina

March 01, 2024 at 22:47 Melbourne Time

MOSCOW — Thousands of mourners standing behind metal police barriers applauded and chanted Alexei Navalny’s name as the body of President Vladimir Putin’s most formidable critic arrived at a church for his farewell ceremony. With busloads of riot police and security trucks at the site, rights groups have warned mourners of possible arrests and interference. Navalny died suddenly at the age of 47 in the Polar Wolf prison colony in northern Russia — a death that his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, and other supporters have described as “murder” but which Russian authorities reported as due to “natural causes.”

Here’s what to know

Crowds of mourners, which included opposition figures, chanted “we are not afraid! Don’t be afraid!” as his coffin arrived. Thousands waited behind barriers in the hope of laying flowers on the coffin but it was unclear if members of the public would be able to enter the church.


Russian authorities exerted tight control on the crowd of public mourners, with metal barriers blocking access to the entrance of the church. Navalny’s team, which operates in exile in Vilnius, Lithuania, broadcast the funeral live but reported interruptions to the internet around the church.


Navalny’s family, including wife Yulia, daughter Daria, son Zakhar and younger brother Oleg, as well as his whole political team, live outside Russia for their safety and were not seen at the church on Friday. Navalnaya has faced threats by pro-Kremlin propagandists that she would be arrested if she returns to Russia. She took the unusual step of demanding in a social media post that authorities not interfere in the funeral.


Authorities pressured Navalny’s family to avoid a public farewell and burial, according to his mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya. She struggled to recover the body and faced barriers renting a hall and even finding a hearse.


The European Parliament adopted a resolution Thursday stating that Russian authorities, and Putin personally, “bear criminal and political responsibility for the death of their strongest opponent, Alexei Navalny.” His widow has called Putin a “bloody mobster.”

31 minutes ago

Thousands waiting for Navalny funeral knew the risks but came anyway

By Francesca Ebel

MOSCOW — Many of the thousands waiting in line outside the church where Alexei Navalny’s farewell ceremony will be held understood the risks of attending amid the warnings of possible arrests but decided to come anyway.

Several Western ambassadors, including U.S. ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy and those of France, Germany and Australia also came to pay their respects. Some of the few opposition figures remaining in Russia who have not been jailed or forced to flee the country also paid tribute including Boris Nadezhdin, an anti-war presidential candidate who was barred from next month’s presidential election.

The line on the cold, overcast Moscow day stretched for blocks from the church with people bundled up in winter coats and clutching bouquets of flowers.

“I couldn’t not come — I respected Alexei. I wasn’t completely in agreement with his ideas but it was a tragedy what happened,” said Dina, 58, clutching a bunch of red carnations wrapped in newspaper. “It was unjust and cruel what happened to him.”

Dina said her children had told her not to come to the funeral but she decided to anyway. “I hope everything will be okay,” she added, insisting, like everyone interviewed, her last name not be used for reasons of security.

Oksana, 30, had traveled from 400 miles from St. Petersburg to attend the funeral. “To come and say goodbye to Alexei, it’s the only thing we can do at the moment,” she said. “Of course I am worried and it’s a risk but it’s the reality we are living in.”

Alexander, 25, had attended all the street protests before the war. On Friday wore a balaclava, to try to avoid detection from Moscow’s video surveillance system. “I am scared to be honest,” he said. “But for me, Navalny was strength, bravery and love.”

In remarks to reporters on the day of the funeral, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned again those participating in “unauthorized gatherings,” warning that they would be “held accountable” according to the law.

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