Alexei Navalny No hearse instead of a corpse as family

Alexei Navalny: “No hearse instead of a corpse” as family prepares funeral

February 29, 2024

Updated 7 hours ago

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Barriers were unloaded near the church where Navalny's memorial service will take place on Friday

Alexei Navalny's funeral is still hours away, and his team said it continues to struggle to organize the farewell ceremony.

His spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said they had not been able to find a hearse to drive the body to the church.

“Unknown people are calling morgues and threatening them if they agree to take Alexei’s body,” Ms. Yarmysh said.

The funeral is scheduled to take place on Friday in Maryino, on the outskirts of Moscow.

On Wednesday, the team announced that the memorial service would be held at 2:00 p.m. Moscow time (11:00 GMT) at the Church of the Icon of Our Lady, Erase My Sorrows.

The funeral will then take place at 4:00 p.m. at the nearby Borisovskoye Cemetery.

The memorial service will also be streamed online on Navalny's YouTube channel.

Navalny died on February 16 in a Russian prison in the Arctic Circle. He was sentenced to three years in prison on trumped-up charges.

His team – which has encouraged people to take part – provided a map of the route between the two locations.

They also shared a list of locations abroad – from Seoul to Rome, Montreal and Stockholm – where people can attend commemorations for Navalny.

It is unclear how many people will attend the funeral in Moscow on Friday.

Speaking to BBC Newshour, Navalny's former chief of staff Leonid Volkov said he was worried about what might happen during the service in Moscow.

“I'm afraid that there will be surprises tomorrow… To be honest, as I speak now, I don't know if they will actually allow people to say goodbye to Alexei,” he said.

He added that Navalny's team also feared there could be problems with the church where the service is taking place.

In March 2015, thousands lined the streets to remember slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, but it is unlikely that a similar public display of mourning for an opponent of President Vladimir Putin would be allowed now.

In recent years, Russian authorities have cracked down on any actions that could be interpreted as criticism of the government. Attempts to commemorate Navalny's death were met with strong reactions: makeshift memorials were cleared and hundreds were arrested.

Photos circulating on social media Thursday afternoon showed a heavy police presence and barriers waiting to be installed near the church where the memorial service will be held and the cemetery where Navalny will be buried.

Telegram channel RusNews also said that surveillance cameras had been installed “on every streetlight” around the cemetery.

The First Department – a group of lawyers and human rights defenders – gave advice on social media for those planning to attend Navalny's funeral.

It warned of “pro-government activists” acting as provocateurs and urged people to remain vigilant: “Arrests cannot be ruled out after the ceremony… Stay under the radar of security forces – do not use public transport and apply no papers in the days after the funeral.

The advice also includes not carrying any items bearing a photo of Navalny or the symbol of his anti-corruption foundation, which has been declared an extremist organization by Russian authorities.

It is not known which members of Navalny's family will be able to attend the funeral, other than his mother Lyudmila, who recently publicly accused authorities of withholding her son's body.

Navalny's children Daria (23) and Zakhar (15) live abroad.

His widow Yulia is not currently believed to be living in Russia, but due to her work with Navalny's team and her recent public statements blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for her husband's death, she could face arrest if she returns .

Authorities have reportedly spent days trying to thwart attempts by Navalny's team to organize a public farewell ceremony for the opposition leader.

On Tuesday, Ms. Yarmysh said Navalny's team was having difficulty finding a location for the ceremony. Some funeral homes claimed they were fully booked, while others said they were “banned” from working with them.

Navalny's widow Yulia said in a speech on Wednesday that she did not know whether the funeral would be peaceful or whether police would arrest those who came to say goodbye.