Navalny's funeral set for Friday in Moscow

Flowers are seen placed around a portrait of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny at a makeshift memorial in front of the former Russian consulate in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on February 19, 2024, three days after Navalny died in a Russian Arctic prison. PHOTO/FILE/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Details of the funeral and how many mourners will be allowed to attend are unclear, and there was no immediate response from Russian officials.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's funeral will be held on Friday in a Moscow church, two weeks after his sudden death in an Arctic prison, his allies announced Wednesday.

Authorities resisted handing Navalny's body to his family for eight days, in what his team said was an attempt to "cover up" official involvement in his death and prevent a public burial.

His widow Yulia Navalnaya said she feared her husband's funeral could be disrupted by arrests.

"I'm not sure yet whether it will be peaceful or whether the police will arrest those who have come to say goodbye to my husband," Navalnaya told the European Parliament.

Navalny's team said in a social media post that a funeral service would be held at the Mother of God Quench My Sorrows church in Maryino on March 1 at 2.00pm (1100 GMT). "Come in advance," the post said.

The burial of the opposition leader, who had embraced Christianity, is set to take place at the Borisov cemetery, a short walk from the banks of the river Moskva.

Finding a church willing to host the service was difficult, the team said, as the Kremlin was afraid a public funeral could turn into a show of support for Navalny.

'A chance to say goodbye' 

"We started to look for a church and a hall for March 1. Everywhere they refused to give us anything. In some places we were told it was forbidden," said exiled ally Ivan Zhdanov.

Other allies said places refused after hearing Navalny's name.

"Alexei needs to be buried... To have a chance to say goodbye, better to come in advance," he added.

But a civil ceremony allowing the general public to pay their respects to the body -- common in Russia -- has not been allowed.

"Two people are to blame for the fact that we have no place for a civil memorial service and farewell to Alexei: (Russian President) Vladimir Putin and (Moscow Mayor) Sergei Sobyanin," Navalnaya said on X.

She added the family "did not want a special treatment -- just to give people the chance to say goodbye."

Navalny died on February 16 in one of Russia's toughest prisons in northern Siberia, where he was serving a 19-year sentence on charges widely seen as political retribution for his opposition.

Russian authorities said Navalny died of "natural causes" but his team and some Western leaders have accused Putin of being directly responsible for his death.

Threats to family 

Details of the funeral and how many mourners will be allowed to attend are unclear, and there was no immediate response from Russian officials.

Authorities had threatened to bury him on the prison grounds where he died unless his family agreed to a private ceremony, his team previously said.

Putin, who famously never referred to the opposition leader by name, has so far remained silent on Navalny's death.

Authorities have however cracked down on public gatherings in memory of Navalny, detaining hundreds for laying flowers at memorials and other acts of protest.

Dozens have already been handed prison sentences, including 154 in Saint Petersburg alone.

The opposition leader shot to prominence through his anti-corruption campaigning, exposing what he said was rampant corruption at the top of Putin's administration.

He was arrested in January 2021 when he returned to Russia after being treated in Germany for a poisoning attack he suffered while campaigning against Putin in Siberia months earlier.