Attempts to hold a funeral for Alexei Navalny on Thursday have been thwarted because it would clash with an address by President Vladimir Putin, according to the former opposition activist’s foundation.

Attempts to hold a funeral for Alexei Navalny on Thursday have been thwarted because it would clash with an address by President Vladimir Putin, according to the former opposition activist’s foundation.

Ivan Zhdanov,  the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said in a statement Wednesday that the team had struggled to find a venue for the funeral and were blocked from hiring a hall so people could pay their respects to the popular anti-corruption campaigner. Navalny’s team encouraged people to do so anyway despite not having a central venue in which to do so.

Russia, which has become increasingly repressive under Putin’s rule and suppresses free speech and political opposition, is already facing an upsurge of support for Navalny since his death in an Arctic penal colony Feb. 16, aged 47. 

Yulia Navalnaya speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France on Wednesday.Philipp von Ditfurth / DPA via Getty Images

Hundreds were arrested in the days after his death as people with flowers and candles streamed to ad-hoc memorials as well as monuments to other victims of political repression , rights groups said. And campaigners say the Russian government is eager to limit further dissent in his name.

“I am not sure yet whether it will be peaceful or the police will arrest those who have come to say goodbye to my husband,” Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, said in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday.

Along with other supporters, Navalnya has blamed Putin for her husband’s death, alleging he was poisoned on the president’s orders with the nerve agent Novichok, and his body held until traces of the poison had disappeared. The Kremlin has denied the accusation of poisoning.

“Putin killed my husband, Alexei Navalny,” Navalnaya said in her speech to European lawmakers which was punctuated by regular applause and ended with a prolonged standing ovation. On Putin’s “orders, Alexei  was tortured for three years, he was starved in a tiny stone cell, cut off from the outside world, and denied visits, phone calls and then even letters — and then they killed him.”

Putin Critic And Russia Activist Dies In Prison
Russian Police officers guard the Borisov cemetery on the outskirts of Moscow on Wednesday, where Alexey Navalny is expected to be buried later this week.Getty Images

Even after his death “they abused his body and abused his mother,” Navalnaya said in an apparent reference to claims by her 69-year-old mother-in-law, Lyudmila Navalnaya, who said officials blackmailed her by insisting on a quiet, non-public funeral, while holding the body for so long that it started to decompose.

His death showed “Putin is capable of anything and you cannot negotiate with him,” Navalnaya said.

Hours before Navalnaya spoke, Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, posted a message to social media giving details of what he said were attempts to thwart the funeral plans. 

He said his team could not find anywhere to host a funeral and bury Navalny on Thursday, when Putin is due to deliver his annual address to Russia’s parliament, the Federal Assembly.

“The Kremlin understands that, on the day of farewell with Alexei, no one will be interested in Putin and his address,” Zhdanov wrote. “We don’t care about the address. Alexei needs to be buried.”

Zhdanov said his team did manage to find a church and a cemetery on Friday, but said their attempts to find a large hall have been unsuccessful.

Navalny memorial Moscow
People lay flowers at a makeshift memorial to Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Feb. 17.Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

“They again put forward the condition of ‘a quiet family funeral with farewell at the Khovanskoye cemetery,’” Zhdanov said, referring to a cemetery outside of Moscow. He did not specify who made the demand. 

“In general, there will be no hall,” he said, adding, “They don’t give a date. They don’t provide a hall.” He encouraged supporters to “say goodbye to Alexei anyway.”

NBC News has contacted Russian officials, as well as Ritual, the state company that has a monopoly on funeral services, for comment.

Russian authorities reported that Navalny, who survived at least one poisoning attempt, died while in custody at a Siberian prison. According to the Russian Prison Service, Navalny fell ill after a walk on Friday, and almost immediately lost consciousness.

His death came as a deal to free Navalny was in the works, five sources told NBC News Tuesday, although the swap was not thought to be imminent when Navalny’s death was announced. Two of those sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said the mooted deal would have included reporter Evan Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan.

More Stories

Read More

Read More

Read More
Stay informed by joining TruthRow

24/7 coverage from 1000+ journalists. Subscriber-exclusive events. Unmatched political and international news.

You can cancel anytime