Alexei Navalny to be buried in Moscow on Friday

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Alexei Navalny will buried in Moscow on Friday, with a memorial service set to take place in the neighbourhood where he lived for many years, according to the late Russian opposition leader’s team.

The anti-corruption activist’s supporters have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having him murdered to prevent his release in a possible prisoner swap with the US and Germany.

After his death in a remote Arctic prison colony earlier this month, Navalny’s family said the Kremlin delayed the handover of his body to cover up the cause of death, blackmailed his mother into burying him in secret, and tried to prevent supporters holding a public funeral.

Navalny will be buried at the Borisovsky cemetery in Moscow, his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh wrote on social media on Wednesday.

Ivan Zhdanov, a director of Navalny’s foundation, said Russian authorities had intervened to stop them holding the funeral on Thursday, when Putin is set to give his state-of-the-union address, or allowing followers to pay their respects at a wake.

“I still don’t know if the funeral will go peacefully or if the police will arrest people for coming to pay their respects,” Yulia Navalnaya, his widow, told the European parliament on Wednesday.

Navalnaya called on western countries to find innovative ways of working against Russia and warned against making a deal with the Kremlin to end the war in Ukraine.

“Putin must answer for what he did to my country. Putin must answer for what he did to our peaceful neighbouring country. Putin must answer for everything he did to Alexei,” she said.

The Kremlin has dismissed the Navalny’s family’s accusations, while investigators have said he died of natural causes.

Zhdanov wrote on social media that “there’s no venue” for the wake, adding: “The bastards won’t give us a date or a venue. But everyone will pay their respects to Alexei regardless.”

The memorial service will be held in Marino, the neighbourhood where Navalny and his family lived for many years before he was poisoned with the nerve agent novichok in 2020.

Navalny, the most prominent critic of Putin and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, was arrested when he returned to Moscow in 2021 after receiving medical treatment in Berlin. He was sentenced to decades in prison on a series of charges ranging from tax evasion to extremism.

Russia banned his foundation, prompting most of his followers to flee the country, jailed the few prominent supporters who stayed, then in effect outlawed all dissent when Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The Kremlin then gradually moved to isolate Navalny from the outside world, forcing him to spend 27 stints in a punishment cell he said amounted to torture and arresting three of his lawyers.

Police briefly detained another lawyer who accompanied Navalny’s mother to retrieve his body on Tuesday, then released him. The lawyer, Vasily Dubkov, did not say why or where he was detained, but told independent Russian news site Verstka that the incident was an attempt to stop him from carrying out his duties.

Navalny’s allies said on Monday that they had pushed western governments to swap him in a deal also involving two US citizens in Russian custody for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian national who was sentenced to life in prison by a German court three years ago for the murder of a former Chechen rebel in Berlin in 2019.

Germany’s appetite for releasing Krasikov has fallen since Navalny’s death, according to US and German officials.

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