Thousands of people defiantly bade an emotional farewell on Friday to Alexei Navalny, the Russian dissident who died two weeks ago in an Arctic prison, at times unable to contain their anger at the authorities they blamed for his death.

At the church dedicated to the “Assuage My Sorrows” icon of the Mother of God in Moscow’s south-eastern Maryino district on Friday, mourners carrying flowers crowded around metal bars to bid farewell to the opposition leader.

In the church, pictures of Navalny’s body in the open coffin, covered in flowers and surrounded by numerous people during the service were also shown for the first time. Navalny’s face was visible.

His mother Lyudmila Navalnaya, who had fought to have her son released, was holding a candle and sitting with his father by the coffin during the ceremony. People hugged them after the funeral service.

Dozens of emergency vehicles with uniformed personnel took up position from the early morning ahead of the funeral service. Police also erected metal fences over a wide area ahead of the event.

Officers checked documents and personal belongings of passers-by and mobile internet services were reportedly shut down in the area. A notice was also reportedly posted at the church asking people not to film or take photographs.

“Russia without Putin!” “Putin is a murderer!” “Russia will be free!” and “No to war!” people chanted people in chorus outside the funeral service amid a tense atmosphere.

In a livestream on YouTube, Navalny’s team showed thousands of people chanting “Navalny, Navalny, Navalny” behind barriers. They chanted: “We do not forget. We do not forgive.”

“I was afraid to come, but Navalny was a symbol of fearlessness,” said 20-year-old Artyom.

Pensioner Alla had white carnations with her. She was worried about getting arrested. “I’ve already received two administrative penalties, and they booked me on the third one,” she said, as prison vans circled the crowd.

In several cities including Moscow, there were arrests at events to remember Navalny, according to rights activists.

The civil rights platform OWD-Info wrote on Friday evening that there had been 128 arrests in 19 cities, including 31 in Novosibirsk and 17 in Moscow.

After the funeral service in the church in Maryino, the brown coffin was transported to Moscow’s Borisov cemetery for the burial. Thousands of people walked the half hour or so to the cemetery.

His colleagues and close supporters, who are abroad due to the threat of arrest, wrestled with tears as Navalny’s relatives kissed the body. The live images were shown on a YouTube stream. The body was covered with a cloth before the coffin was closed and lowered into the ground.

The “Terminator 2” theme song was played. “[Navalny] thought Terminator 2 was the best film on earth. The music from the final scene was played at his funeral,” his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said.

His widow published a video clip with scenes from their life together in a moving farewell to her husband.

In the post on Instagram, 47-year-old Yulia Navalnaya wrote: “Thank you for 26 years of absolute happiness. Yes, even for the last three years of happiness. For the love, for always supporting me, for making me laugh even from prison, for always thinking of me.”

Navalnaya, daughter Daria and son Zakhar were not in Moscow for the funeral – for security reasons.

The widow has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of Navalny’s murder and must expect to be arrested if she returned to her homeland. She has also announced that she will continue her husband’s political fight against Putin.

The Kremlin rejects responsibility for his death, while continuing preparations for elections on March 15-17 that are expected to install Putin for a fifth term.

The heightened security measures indicated that even after his death, Navalny, a main challenger to Putin in recent years, remains a major cause of concern for the authorities.

According to the authorities, Navalny died on February 16 in a prison camp in the Yamal region, 1,900 kilometres north-east of Moscow, at the age of 47. The circumstances of his death have not been clarified.

The politician, weakened by an earlier poison attack and repeated solitary confinement in the camp, is said to have collapsed in the icy prison yard and died despite attempts to resuscitate him.

According to Navalny’s team, the death certificate states that the cause of death was “natural.” Navalny’s mother said that she had repeatedly resisted Kremlin plans to have him buried in secret.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell expressed condolences to the family and friends of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Friday.

“Navalny’s beliefs will not disappear – ideas cannot be tortured, poisoned or killed,” he said.

Navalny “remains an inspiration for many in Russia and beyond,” he added.

People place flowers and tributes outside the Russian Embassy on the day of the burial of the Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny in Helsinki. Mikko Stig/Lehtikuva/dpa

People place flowers and tributes outside the Russian Embassy on the day of the burial of the Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny in Helsinki. Mikko Stig/Lehtikuva/dpa

A placard reading "Putin killed Navalny" is placed among Flowers, candles and pictures, laid in tribute to deceased Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny,  near the Consulate General of the Russian Federation. . Sven Hoppe/dpa

A placard reading “Putin killed Navalny” is placed among Flowers, candles and pictures, laid in tribute to deceased Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, near the Consulate General of the Russian Federation. . Sven Hoppe/dpa



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