Thousands at Navalny's funeral, 'Russia will be free', 128 arrested in 19 cities

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Thousands at Navalny's funeral, 'Russia will be free', 128 arrested in 19 cities

First the tug-of-war over the return of the body, then the difficulties in finding a funeral hall and even a hearse, but also the fears of possible retaliation. Nothing could stop the thousands of people who gathered in the suburban neighborhood of Maryino, over 20 kilometers from the center of Moscow, to pay their final farewell to Alexei Navalny, in a small church squeezed between anonymous residential towers of up to 30 floors . While the authorities, despite the massive deployment of law enforcement agencies – police, National Guard, Omon special forces – did nothing to disperse the opponent's followers, not even when hostile slogans against Vladimir Putin were raised from the crowd.

The notes of 'My Way' and the soundtrack of 'Terminator 2' – Navalny's favorite film – accompanied the burial, which took place in the presence of his mother Lyudmila, his father Anatoly and a few close friends in the Borisovskoye cemetery at the end of a a day of intense emotions which saw the participation of mainly young people, but also of several elderly people. “I am here because it represented hope in a different country, for me, my family, my friends, even if we will probably pay the consequences”, a 19-year-old girl, Irina, told ANSA in front of the church of the Icon of the Mother of God, where the Orthodox religious rite took place, with the coffin opened for the last caress of the deceased.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had warned that any “unauthorised” demonstration would be considered a “violation of the law”. The rally effectively took on the contours of a political protest, with slogans such as “Russia will be free” and “a Russia without Putin” rising from the crowd. And subsequently the NGO Ovd-Info announced that 128 people in 19 different cities in Russia were stopped , including a local leader of the progressive Yabloko party, Andrei Morev, who was blocked on the subway while returning from the funeral. According to the same source, a total of 67 people were stopped during commemorations in 16 Russian cities.

The funeral, however, was not disturbed by incidents, with the police limiting themselves to directing the influx of participants and showing collaboration with the many Russian and foreign journalists present. When the van with Navalny's coffin left the church, dozens of bouquets of flowers were thrown in its direction. Among these also that of the Italian chargé d'affaires, Pietro Sferra Carini, who like other Western diplomats waited a long time and in vain to be admitted to the ceremony.

Then, against the backdrop of a gray sky that threatened snow, a black column of people walked along the Brateevsky bridge that crosses the Moskva River to reach the cemetery. The crowd immediately began to press towards the entrance, while inside, a few dozen meters away, the burial was underway. New slogans rose from those present, such as “Alexei is our hero”. But above all the repeated one of “let us in”. At the end of the ceremony the request was granted. After passing through the metal detector, everyone was able to lay their flowers in front of Navalny's photograph and throw a handful of earth on the coffin, placed in the newly dug grave.

On the day of his farewell, Navalny was remembered with a new tribute by Vladimir Kara-Murza, another opponent who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence, the heaviest imposed on an enemy of the Kremlin. “The future cannot be stopped by bullets, poisons or prisons”, wrote Kara-Murza, for whose release in recent days another dissident Ilya Yashin had asked for diplomatic intervention by the UN, EU and USA, stating that it risks die like Navalny.

Reproduction reserved © Copyright ANSA

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