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Alexei Navalny funeral: Thousands gather as Russian opposition leader laid to rest

Thousands of mourners gathered outside the church in Moscow where Alexei Navalny’s funeral was held.

Photographs taken on Friday show huge crowds behind barriers, with Russian riot police officers nearby.

A civil rights group, OVD-Info, reported six people had been detained in Moscow and at least 39 in other parts of Russia.

Mr Navalny’s coffin was carried into the church, as people were heard applauding and chanting “Navalny, Navalny”. It was then placed in the church with an open casket, as is common in the Russian Orthodox tradition.

After the service, now-widowed Yulia Navalnaya made a heartbreaking tribute to her husband.

She wrote on X, formally Twitter: “Thank you for 26 years of pure happiness - even the last 3 years.

“For your love, your support, making me laugh even from prison and always thinking about me.

“I don’t know how to live without you, but I’ll try to make you happy and proud of me up there.”

Mr Navalny’s coffin was closed straight after the service and then transported to Borisovskoye cemetery, where he will be laid to rest.

Some were heard shouting “we won’t forget you!” and “forgive us” when the coffin arrived.

Tensions have been high around how the day will go, with the Kremlin warning any unsanctioned gatherings would violate the law.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday morning: "Just a reminder that we have a law that must be followed.

“Any unauthorised gatherings will be in violation of the law, and those who participate in them will be held accountable - again, in line with the current law.”

Mourners gathered for the funeral on Friday (AFP via Getty Images)
Mourners gathered for the funeral on Friday (AFP via Getty Images)
Workers carry the coffin of Alexei Navalny into the church (AP)
Workers carry the coffin of Alexei Navalny into the church (AP)

The Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows agreed to hold the service after claims that funeral services and halls had been “prohibited from working with Mr Navalny’s team”.

They did not mention the event on any of their social media pages.

Authorities lined the road from from a nearby subway station to the church with crowd-control barriers, and riot police deployed in big numbers early Friday.

Earlier this week, Ms Navalnaya told the European Parliament in Strasbourg: “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.”It has not been made clear who will be attending the service, but organisers say the day will be live-streamed online.

Mourners gather in front of the Mother of God Quench My Sorrows church ahead of the funeral service (AFP via Getty Images)
Mourners gather in front of the Mother of God Quench My Sorrows church ahead of the funeral service (AFP via Getty Images)

It comes after Mr Navalny’s mother Lyudmila Navalnaya, spent eight days trying to get authorities to release the body following his death on February 16 death at a remote penal colony.

He had been serving a 19-year sentence on charges widely seen as politically motivated.

Authorities originally said they could not turn over the body because they needed to conduct post-mortem tests.

Ms Navalnaya, 69, made a video appeal to President Vladimir Putin to release the body so she could bury her son with dignity.

Riot police were outside the church on Friday morning (AP)
Riot police were outside the church on Friday morning (AP)

Once it was released, at least one funeral director said he had been "forbidden" to work with Mr Navalny's supporters, the spokeswoman for his team, Kira Yarmysh, said on social media. They also were unable to find a hearse for the funeral.

"Unknown people are calling up people and threatening them not to take Alexei's body anywhere," Ms Yarmysh said Thursday.

Russian authorities still have not announced the cause of death for Mr Navalny who crusaded against official corruption and organised major protests as Putin's fiercest political foe.

Flowers are seen placed around a portrait of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny at a makeshift memorial (AFP via Getty Images)
Flowers are seen placed around a portrait of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny at a makeshift memorial (AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Navalny's supporters have accused President Vladimir Putin of having him murdered ahead of a potential prisoner swap.

The Kremlin, which casts Mr Navalny and his supporters as US-backed extremists, has denied state involvement in his death.