Alexei Navalny’s Family: Moscow Funeral Agencies Refuse to Hold Memorial for Late Dissident

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Friends and allies of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Tuesday they could not find a public or private funeral agency in Moscow willing to host a ceremony because the regime of strongman Vladimir Putin warned them not to.

“We have called the majority of private and state funeral agencies, commercial entities, and funeral halls. Some say the premises are booked, some refuse to talk after they hear Navalny’s name,” said Navalny spokeswoman Kyra Yarmysh on Tuesday.

“At one place, they directly said to us that they had been ordered not to collaborate with us. No results a day after we started looking for a site for a farewell ceremony,” she said.

Navalny died at an Arctic prison camp on February 16 under murky circumstances. Prison officials claim the 47-year-old spontaneously perished from natural causes, while Navalny’s friends, family, and allies say he was murdered on orders from Putin.

Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via a video link from the IK-3 penal colony above the Arctic Circle during a hearing at the Supreme Court in Moscow on January 11, 2024. (VERA SAVINA/AFP via Getty Images)

A Russian nerve agent called Novichok nearly killed Navalny as he flew to Moscow from Siberia in August 2020. He received lifesaving treatment in Germany, was arrested upon returning to Moscow in January 2021, and was imprisoned on embezzlement and extremism charges ever since.

A few days after his death, Navalny’s widow, Yulia, accused prison officials of refusing to release his body because they needed time to cover up another dose of Novichok that finished him off.

Navalny’s remains were finally handed over to his mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, on Saturday after she was kept waiting in the Arctic for more than a week. 

Yulia accused Russian officials of “torturing” Navalny’s family and desecrating his memory by holding onto his body for so long. Lyudmila said government agents told her she could only have the body if she promised to transport it secretly and hold a private funeral because Putin does not want the opposition and unhappy Russians to turn Navalny’s ceremony into a massive political rally. The Kremlin dismissed these allegations as “absurd” on Monday.

Russian police have already arrested hundreds of Navalny mourners across the country, plus journalists who were covering their rallies.

The Associated Press

People lay flowers, paying their last respects to Alexei Navalny at a monument in Moscow, Russia, on February 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

On Tuesday, Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported social media posts from Russia claiming that the Borisovskoye cemetery in Moscow has begun preparations for Navalny’s burial and has tentatively scheduled the ceremony for Friday. An unverified video clip showed the cemetery’s parking lot cleared of snow and filled with police vehicles.

Other posts on the chat site Telegram have suggested Navalny could be buried in the Khovanskoye or Troyekurovskoye cemeteries, also in Moscow.

Putin is scheduled to address the Russian Federal Assembly on Friday. The speech will be broadcast to screens in 17 movie theaters across the country. The government is making a major propaganda push to turn the speech into a huge public event and fill the theaters.

An anonymous source quoted by the UK Daily Mail on Tuesday said the Kremlin is nervous that Navalny’s funeral could upstage Putin’s speech, especially if Navalny mourners end up clashing with the police. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday directly warned Navalny’s supporters not to turn his funeral into a disruptive event.

“These people, so-called supporters are well known for their provocative calls to break the laws of the Russian Federation,” Peskov sneered.

“This is a very harmful practice and has legal and law enforcement consequences for those who respond to these calls,” he warned.


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