19 April 2024,   02:20
Alexei Navalny buried in Moscow as thousands attend under heavy police presence

Under a heavy police presence, thousands of people bade farewell to opposition leader Alexei Navalny at his funeral in Moscow after his still-unexplained death 2 weeks ago in an Arctic penal colony, writes PBS NEWS HOUR.

Navalny was buried at a cemetery in the snowy southeastern outskirts of the capital after a short Russian Orthodox ceremony, with vast crowds waiting outside the church and then streaming to the fresh grave of President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critic with flowers and anti-government chants.

Although riot police set up barricades at both the church and cemetery, no detentions were reported. When his death was announced Feb. 16, police in cities in Russia detained hundreds who tried to leave flowers at impromptu memorials.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia, who was not seen at the funeral but has vowed to continue his work, lovingly thanked him for “26 years of absolute happiness”.

“I don’t know how to live without you, but I will try to do it in a way that you up there are proud of me and happy for me”, she wrote on Instagram.

The funeral followed a battle with authorities over the release of his body. His team said several Moscow churches refused to hold the funeral for the man who crusaded against official corruption and organized massive protests. Many Western leaders blamed the death on the Russian leader, an accusation the Kremlin angrily rejected.

Navalny’s team eventually got permission from the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, which was surrounded by crowd-control barriers.

As his coffin was removed from the hearse and taken inside the church, the crowd waiting outside broke into respectful applause and then chanted: “Navalny! Navalny!” Some also shouted, “You weren’t afraid, neither are we!” and later “No to war!” “Russia without Putin!” and “Russia will be free!”