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Alexey Navalny's team announces Moscow funeral arrangements, tells supporters to "come early"

Fiona Hill: Putin has "created a martyr" in Alexei Navalny
Russian President Vladimir Putin has "created a martyr" in Alexei Navalny, Fiona Hill says 05:23

The funeral service for Russia's most prominent opposition figure, Alexey Navalny, will be held on Friday at a church in the Moscow neighborhood where he lived, his press secretary said Wednesday.

"Alexey's funeral service will take place in the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God 'Relieve My Sorrows' in Maryino on March 1 at 14:00. Come early." Navalny's ally Kira Yarmysh said on social media. "The funeral will take place at the Borisov Cemetery."

Navalny, 47, died in an Arctic penal colony on Feb. 16. His family, who have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having his long-time foe murdered in the prison, fought for over a week to have his body returned to them. It was finally handed over to his mother on Saturday.

Yarmysh said at one point that Russian authorities had threatened to bury Navalny at the prison where he died if his family didn't agree to a closed funeral, but that his mother "refused to negotiate... because they have no authority to decide how and where to bury her son." 

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People across Russia honored Navalny over the weekend by leaving flowers at public monuments, gathering at churches and holding single-person protests. Over 400 people were detained by Russian authorities as they sought contain the outpouring of support for Navalny, according to the OVD-Info rights group, which tracks political arrests and provides legal aid.

Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, said finding a place that would host the funeral was difficult because of government interference. Finally, Zhdanov said the family and Navalny's allies were unable to secure a large space in Moscow.

"Everywhere, they refused to give us anything. Somewhere, they directly referred to the ban," Zhdanov said. "There will be no hall. Bastards. They don't give a date. They don't provide a hall. Everyone will say goodbye to Alexey anyway."

Navalny, who survived at least two suspected assassination attempts with poison, including an attack with the nerve agent Novichok in 2020, was the most outspoken critic of Putin's government before he was imprisoned in 2021.

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He was initially handed a nine-year sentence in a high-security prison for parole violations, fraud and contempt of court, but was later convicted of promoting "extremism." His sentence was extended by 19 years in August 2023, and Navalny was transferred to another high-security prison with a reputation for abuse — known as the "torture conveyor belt" — which raised further concerns about his safety. 

"Without public protection, Alexey will be face to face with those who have already tried to kill him, and nothing will stop them from trying again," his spokesperson, Yarmysh, said after the court's decision. "We are now talking not only about Alexey's freedom, but also about his life."

Navalny and many outside observers always considered the charges against him baseless political retaliation for his criticism of Putin and the Kremlin's policies, both foreign and domestic. The U.S. State Department also considered his prosecution and imprisonment "politically motivated."

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In a speech on Wednesday, Navalny's wife, Yulia, said the international community could not deal with Putin like a politician.

"It is impossible to hurt Putin with another resolution or another package of sanctions that is no different from the previous ones. It is impossible to defeat him by thinking of him as a man of principles. With morals. With rules," she said. "He is not like that, and Alexey realized this a long time ago. You are not dealing with a politician, but with a bloody mafioso."

She called on the international community to "fight the Putin mafia" with "methods that are used to fight organized crime, and not for political competition," and she again pledged to continue her husband's work.

"Putin must answer for what he did to my country. Putin must answer for what he did to a neighboring, peaceful country. Putin must answer for everything he did to Alexey," she said. "My husband will not see what the beautiful Russia of the future will be like, but we should see it. And I will do my best to make his dream come true - so that evil will retreat and the future will come."

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