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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Jordan King

Alexei Navalny funeral: Riot police gather before Russian opposition leader laid to rest in Moscow

Russian riot police officers have been photographed near where Alexei Navalny’s funeral will be held on Friday.

The opposition leader’s loved ones and supporters are set to bid him farewell in Moscow but tensions are high over how the day will go.

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 have not mentioned the event on any of their social media pages.

On Thursday, workers were seen putter barriers up near the church, with riot police gathering to guard the area the next day.

Earlier this week, Mr Navalny's widow Yulia 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.”

Riot police were outside the church on Friday morning (AP)
The funeral is taking place in Moscow on Friday (AP)

It has not been made clear who will be attending the service, but organisers say the day will be live-streamed online.

Mr Navalny is set to be buried at the nearby Borisovskoye Cemetery, where police were also seen on Thursday.

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

Mourners gather in front of the Mother of God Quench My Sorrows church (AFP via Getty Images)
Workers place barriers in front of the church (REUTERS)

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

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.

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.

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