What risks weigh on Alexei Navalny's funeral this Friday?

The funeral of Alexeï Navalny, main opponent of Vladimir Putin, will be held this Friday, March 1 in Moscow (Russia).

What risks weigh on Alexei Navalny's funeral this Friday?

The funeral of Alexeï Navalny, main opponent of Vladimir Putin, will be held this Friday, March 1 in Moscow (Russia). A very high risk ceremony.

The funeral of the number one opponent of Vladimir Putin, and anti-corruption activist, Alexeï Navalny, will take place this Friday March 1, 2024 at 2 p.m. local time, (12 p.m. in France), in a church in the south-east of Moscow, in the district where he lived. He will be buried two hours later, at the Borissovo cemetery.

As a reminder, Alexei Navalny, 47, took his last breath in the Kharp penitentiary center, known as the “polar wolf”, located in the Russian Arctic, where he was serving a 19-year prison sentence for “extremism”. It was only the latest in a long series of convictions by Russian justice that he denounced, like so many political trials organized to repress his opposition to the regime. The religious ceremony should be organized in accordance with the Orthodox rite. The burial should take place around 4 p.m. in Russia, 2 p.m. in France.

Given the risks it presents, will this farewell ceremony for Alexeï Navalny take place, and under what conditions? Many questions surround the opponent's funeral. One thing is certain, Alexeï Navalny's teams and his family fear that the Russian authorities will take advantage of the ceremony to arrest opponents of the regime. "I don't yet know if they will be peaceful or if the police will arrest those who came to say goodbye to my husband" declared yesterday, Yulia Navalnaïa, the opponent's widow in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Around the church, the security and police force promises to be particularly busy.

Indeed, the risks of arrests remain high and the ceremony placed under close surveillance. This Monday, the deceased's lawyer told France Info "to expect very severe persecution". Not enough to reassure the Navalny camp a few hours before the funeral in the Russian capital. And for good reason, this funeral could well mobilize many supporters of the former adversary of Vladimir Putin. Enough to irritate the latter, three weeks before a new coronation, without an opponent, at the head of the country.

Since Alexeï Navalny's body was handed over to his mother last Saturday, his team has had all the trouble in the world finding a hearse to transport the body. Impossible for the family to find a funeral service agreeing to provide one according to information from France Info. In the columns of 20 minutes, the team indicates that they were “rejected” any request when they were looking for a place to give them a “public farewell”. According to her, the authorities are putting pressure on those responsible for the proposed locations.

“Everywhere, they refused to give us anything. In some places, they told us that it was forbidden,” lamented Ivan Zhdanov, a close collaborator of Navalny. On Thursday, the hearse drivers even refused to take the opponent's remains to the church. Zhdanov denounces “threatening calls from strangers, it’s a real shame” on Telegram.

And he is not the only one to worry about the ceremony being held. In front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Youlia Navalnaïa, the widow of the opponent, strongly attacked Vladimir Putin: “You are not dealing with a politician, but with a bloodthirsty monster. And it is good to do so. repeat: Putin is the leader of an organized criminal gang. The public assassination of my husband once again showed everyone that Putin is capable of anything and that you cannot negotiate with him" - -she indicated. If the cancellation of funerals is not on the agenda despite the risks such a ceremony presents, particularly in the current Russian context, excesses cannot be ruled out in Moscow this Friday.