Navalny's mother visits son's grave after funeral draws thousands in Russia

AFP. , Saturday 2 Mar 2024

The mother of dead Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny visited his grave on Saturday, a day after thousands of Russians risked arrest to pay tribute to the anti-corruption campaigner at his funeral.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, left, and his mother-in-law, Yulia Navalnaya, visit the grave of Alexei Navalny after his yesterday funeral at the Borisovskoye Cemetery, in Moscow, Russia, on Saturday, March 2, 2024. AP


Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critic for more than a decade, died in an Arctic prison colony last month, where he was serving a 19-year sentence on "extremism" charges largely seen as political retribution for his opposition to the Kremlin.

His mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, visited his grave, which was covered in flowers and wreaths, at the Borisovo cemetery in southern Moscow early on Saturday morning, AFP journalists saw.

She was accompanied by Alla Abrosimova, the mother of Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya.

Yulia Navalnaya, the couple's two children, and Navalny's brother all live abroad and did not attend the funeral, where they could have been arrested for their own opposition to Putin.

Most of his closest aides -- in jail or in exile -- were also unable to attend the service in the Maryino district of Moscow, where Navalny used to live.

Yulia Navalnaya has pledged to continue her husband's work and said Putin "murdered" him.

The circumstances of his death remain somewhat unclear. Authorities said he had died of "natural causes" after losing consciousness following a walk in his Arctic prison colony.

But Navalny's aides have accused the Russian authorities of ordering him killed, and Western leaders have said Putin carries "responsibility" for his death.

'Grief, despair and hope'

AFP journalists on Saturday saw a trickle of mourners laying flowers at Navalny's grave and a continued police presence at the cemetery, close to the banks of the Moskva river.

Natalia, a 50-year-old artist who declined to give her surname, told AFP she felt "grief, despair, and hope" when she visited Navalny's grave on Saturday.

"After all, Alexei asked us not to despair, and fight."

Another mourner, Vadim, 52, said he felt "sorrow and bitterness at the loss of a worthy man of our time".

He urged Navalny's supporters to follow the Kremlin critic's example "and continue to live the way Alexei would have wanted -- to make people in our country and around the world live more happily".

Others at the cemetery on Saturday found it harder to be optimistic.

"It's sad. And it's just clear that everything that was built with him over these years has also been buried here. That's it," said 29-year-old IT worker Roman.

Thousands of Navalny's followers had queued for hours to pay their respects to the 47-year-old on Friday.

As they streamed from a nearby church to the cemetery, some chanted "No to war!" and other pro-Navalny slogans, including branding Putin a "murderer" and calling for the release of political prisoners.

Rights monitoring group OVD-Info said Russian police had arrested at least 128 people attending tributes to Navalny in 19 cities on Friday.

Scenes of thousands marching in support of Navalny, demanding an end to Russia's offensive in Ukraine and blasting the Kremlin, have not been seen in Russia since the first days after Moscow ordered hundreds of thousands of troops across the border into Ukraine in February 2022.

The Kremlin has cracked down hard on dissent and has used strict military censorship laws to prosecute hundreds who have spoken out publicly against the military campaign.

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