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Russian authorities could use violence to stop mourners paying tribute to Navalny, allies warn

Russian authorities could use violence to shut down Alexei Navalny’s funeral as supporters pay a last tribute to him, allies of the Kremlin critic warned.

Vladimir Ashurkov, a long-term friend and associate of Navalny, warned there was a chance of police brutality and violence at the funeral on Friday.

The service will take place at a church in Maryino, Moscow, at 11am GMT, despite hearse companies refusing to transport his body, his spokesperson said.

Mr Ashurkov told The Independent: “For many people Navalny was a hero and it only makes sense people have a chance to pay a last tribute to him tomorrow.

“I don’t know how brutal and violent it will get in Moscow, but there is a chance of it. In the two weeks since Navalny’s death, authorities have been quite brutal and dozens of people were arrested.”

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

(Moscow City Court)

At least 387 people have been arrested in 39 cities across Russia for mourning Navalny following his death in an Arctic penal colony on 16 February, according to protest watchdog OVD-Info.

In Surgut, central Russia, one mourner was allegedly tortured at a police station by being beaten and having a gun pointed at his head for laying flowers, Amnesty International Russia Researcher Oleg Kozlovsky said.

And in St Petersburg, around 390 miles north of Moscow, courts have imposed “administrative detentions” on at least 26 people who have commemorated Navalny, with others known to be his supporters arrested ahead of the funeral.

Russian police stand outside the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God ‘Quench My Sorrows’ in Maryino ahead of Navalny’s funeral on Friday

(AP)

Mr Kozlovsky explained that Russian police have a huge arsenal of tools and techniques ready to disperse mourners – in part designed to erase the memory of Navalny.

“They will likely station lots of men in uniform at the funeral, as well as in other cities outside of Moscow,” he told The Independent.

“They may also try directly to break up or disperse any assembled people by using force, either completely unnecessarily or disproportionately. This is the usual modus operandi when dealing with Navalny’s protests.”

The Church of the Icon of the Mother of God, where Navalny allies have warned police could use violence to disperse mourners

(AP)

He previously explained the crackdown was designed to erase the memory of Navalny from Russian history.

“The removal of photos of Navalny and the swift dismantling of memorial events across the country, sometimes directly in front of mourners, reveals how the authorities are seeking to expunge his name from the history books,” he said.

Despite up to 100,000 Russians signing a petition demanding a public funeral for Navalny, it is unclear how many will turn up for the service.

“Young people are more likely to show up because they have less to lose. In general, they are more active and less dependent on the state. They don’t think about the risks as much as older people.

“At the same time, a funeral is a very unusual and unique opportunity for direct participation with anything related to Navalny. So, I expect a lot of older people think its their obligation to show up,” Mr Kozlovsky said.


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