Putin prevents Navalny burial as silent Kirill plays Kremlin pet

To understand the rot that underpins Russia under Vladimir Putin, consider the variable experience of Alexei Navalny’s family and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church on Thursday.

Nearly a week after he died in suspicious circumstances while unjustly imprisoned in a Siberian gulag, the investigative journalist’s body has yet to be released for funeral. Speaking on Thursday, Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, asserted that Russian authorities are demanding she accept a secret burial in a manner, location, and timing of their choosing. She says the officials had “received orders” from the Kremlin while they were speaking with her. Then, “Looking into my eyes, they [said] that if I do not agree to a secret funeral, they will do something with my son’s body.” She added that one official had told her, “Time is not on your side, the corpse is decomposing.”

This brutal treatment of a grieving mother is a testament to the dark nature of Putin’s rule. It is not enough that Navalny be killed, either by action or neglect, in the freezing Arctic north. Whether to hide the cause of his death or simply to cause pain to his family, his body is imprisoned against a final rest. Such wanton mistreatment of the dead and of a grieving family is utterly incompatible with Russian Orthodox funeral rites.

That Church, of which Navalny was more recently a member, teaches the importance of a body being able to be held by the family for three days of private grieving following death. A funeral is supposed to occur soon after. All of these steps, culminating with a memorial service forty days after death, are supposed to guide the departed soul to heaven. Instead, Navalny has been left on a gulag slab. The implication of the official’s comment to Navalny’s mother that her son’s “corpse is decomposing” seems designed to reinforce the notion that Navalny’s is a soul not a rest.

This is evil.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, doesn’t care. As Navalny’s family sought a sliver of moral justice on Thursday, Kirill was feting a key Kremlin crony. In an official post, Kirill was shown to have awarded Vyacheslav Volodin with the order of Alexander Nevsky (a Russian prince who served Mongol invaders). Chairman of the Duma parliament, Volodin is a reliable Putin sycophant who ensures the president’s priorities trump any semblance of parliamentary scrutiny toward the executive. Kirill shows his priorities with this choice of meeting and award.


Still, it is notable that Kirill has not commented on the need for Navalny to be afforded appropriate burial rites. Notable but sadly unsurprising. In the end, Kirill is as much a true Orthodox religious leader as Henry VIII was a Catholic. Kirill, a longtime KGB agent inside the Church, seeks not to proffer the faith but rather to earn wealth and political influence by offering Putin a veil of religious credibility for his various ill-deeds. He once earned hundreds of millions of dollars using the Church as a front for cigarette smuggling, for example. Kirill’s corruption was also memorably underlined by his effort to scrub a photo showing him wearing a $30,000 Breguet watch.

Top line: Putin speaks a great deal about rebuilding a Russian nation that is proud, determined, and spiritually grounded. In Navalny, however, we see that true patriots of that Russian ideal receive only dishonor from the powerful corrupt.

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