Navalny funeral marked by heavy police presence

nalvany russia 0219 ap

Police turned out in force near the Moscow church where Alexei Navalny’s funeral took place on Friday, as mourners gathered in a show of support for the late Russian opposition leader.

Officers watched as hundreds of people waited to enter the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, which was surrounded by crowd-control barriers.

When Navalny’s hearse arrived at the church and his coffin could be seen taken out of the vehicle, the crowd applauded and chanted his name.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov urged Navalny’s supporters not to break the law, saying any “unauthorized (mass) gatherings” are violations, The Associated Press noted.

A burial was set to follow the funeral at the nearby Borisovskoye Cemetery, where there was also a heavy police presence.

Navalny’s spokesperson earlier this week described the difficulty in arranging the funeral, noting threats and hearse drivers’ refusals to transport the body.

Russian officials announced Navalny’s death on Feb. 16, saying that he felt unwell after a walk and lost consciousness. His mother was told her son died from “sudden death syndrome” – a vague term for various cardiac syndromes that can prompt sudden cardiac arrest and death.

His family pressed officials to release his body but they held it for several days for further investigation.

Navalny, 47, rose to fame for becoming one of the most vocal critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. President Biden and other world leaders have placed blame on Putin for Navalny’s death, but Russian officials have brushed off the accusations.

Navalny was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism in the country’s highest-security prison near the Arctic Circle.

Hundreds of people mourning Navalny were detained in Russia at events in the days following his death. His wife vowed in a speech to continue the work of her late husband.

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