Main critic of the Kremlin and charismatic anti-corruption activist, Alexeï Navalny died on February 16 at the age of 47 in a Russian penal colony in the Arctic in circumstances which remain obscure.

His collaborators, his widow Yulia Navalnaïa and the West have accused Vladimir Putin of being responsible for his death, which the Kremlin rejects.

After delaying handing over Alexeï Navalny's remains to his loved ones, the Russian authorities finally did so last weekend, allowing a funeral.

The funeral service is due to begin on Friday at 2 p.m. (11 a.m. GMT) in a church in the Marino district, in the southeast of the Russian capital, where the opponent lived when he was free.

Employees position metal barriers in front of a church where a funeral ceremony for Alexeï Navalny is to be held, on March 29, 2024 in Moscow © Olga MALTSEVA / AFP

According to the Orthodox rite, the body will be exposed in an open coffin for his loved ones before burial in the nearby Borissovo cemetery, two hours later.

His team, however, revealed Thursday that the funeral services refused to take the opponent's remains.

"It's a real shame. The hearse drivers are now refusing to take Alexei from the morgue," Ivan Zhdanov, one of Alexei Navalny's close associates, lamented on Telegram.

"First, we were not allowed to rent a funeral home to say goodbye to Alexei. And now, when the funeral service is supposed to take place at the church, the funeral agents inform us that no hearse "will take the body there," his team confirmed on social media.

According to her, the funeral services "are receiving calls from strangers threatening them not to take Alexei's body anywhere."

Since the handing over of Alexeï Navalny's body to his mother on Saturday, the opponent's team had been looking for a place for a "public farewell" but was "rejected" any request, accusing the authorities of putting pressure on the managers.

“Memory flouted”

His team nevertheless called on Muscovites to come and say goodbye to Alexeï Navalny, and his supporters in other cities and abroad to gather in front of memorials to honor his memory.

Gatherings which could be embarrassing for those in power, two weeks before the presidential election (March 15-17) supposed to extend Vladimir Putin's reign in power.

Nearly 400 people were arrested by the police in the days following the death of the opponent, during improvised rallies in his memory.

Also read Death of Alexeï Navalny: who are the other opponents of Putin who died prematurely?

Yulia Navalnaïa, the opponent's widow, regretted Thursday that no civil ceremony had been authorized to allow the body to be exposed to a wider public, as is often the case after the death of major personalities in Russia.

Ioulia Navalnaïa, widow of opponent Alexeï Navalny, speaks in front of the European Parliament, February 28, 2024 in Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin) © FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

“The people in the Kremlin killed him, then trampled his body, then trampled his mother and now trample his memory,” she lambasted, accusing Vladimir Putin and the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, of being responsible for this situation.

Yulia Navalnaïa also said, in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, that she feared arrests during the funeral.

Before his poisoning in 2020, which he barely survived and for which he blamed Vladimir Putin, then his arrest and sentence to 19 years in prison for "extremism", Alexeï Navalny managed to mobilize crowds, particularly in the Russian capital .

Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny addresses his supporters during an unauthorized anti-Putin rally on May 5, 2018 in Moscow © Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP/Archives

His movement, which relied on investigations denouncing the corruption of Russian elites, has been methodically dismantled in recent years, sending many of its collaborators behind bars or in exile.

After the death of her husband, Yulia Navalnaïa promised to continue her fight.

With AFP

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