Swaths of mourners gather for Navalny’s funeral in Moscow, chanting ‘Heroes don’t die’

A sizable crowd of supporters appeared in Moscow to pay their final respects to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny following his death in a Russian prison.

Despite the possible legal repercussions, as Navalny had been designated an extremist and supporter of terrorism, thousands of mourners showed up to his funeral to pay their respects.

People walk toward the Borisovskoye Cemetery for the funeral ceremony of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in Moscow, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP Photo)

The funeral quickly turned into an almost unheard-of display of dissent since the crackdown on initial anti-war protests in February and March 2022. Mourners repeated chants such as “No to War!” “Navalny is a hero of Russia!” “Heroes don’t die!” and “Freedom for political prisoners!”

Relatives and friends pay their last respects at the coffin of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, in Moscow, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP Photo)

Navalny’s body was lowered into the ground to the song that plays in Terminator 2: Judgement Day when Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character is lowered into molten lava. The movie was reportedly Navalny’s favorite.

One protester held a banner explicitly accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of having murdered Navalny, reading, “Putin killed him, but didn’t break him.”

The true number of mourners is difficult to gauge, aside from it being in the thousands. The independent pro-Kremlin outlet Readovka reported that 12,000 in total attended. Navalny ally Ruslan Shaveddinov told the Washington Post that the majority of the crowd wasn’t allowed into the cemetery to pay respects.

Among those in attendance were representatives from several Western countries: American Ambassador Lynn Tracy, British Deputy Ambassador Tom Dodd, French Ambassador Pierre Levy, German Ambassador Alexander Lambsdorf, and Canadian Ambassador Sarah Taylor.

The dissident outlet Mediazona accused officials of having sent plainclothes agent provocateurs into the crowd, urging mourners to march on the Kremlin.

Some pro-Putin figures appeared to more directly agitate the mourners, with one blasting a pro-Putin song from their car speakers as they drove past the long line to the cemetery.

According to the Moscow Times, citing two senior Kremlin officials, Putin feared the funeral would provide a perfect outlet for dissent.

“Navalny’s funeral is a stress test for the Russian authorities. This topic was one of the most important at meetings involving Kremlin officials, FSB generals, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” one of the sources said.

Russian leadership reportedly feared a recreation of the 1989 funeral of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, which drew a large crowd of dissidents.

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According to Meduza, roughly 120 people were arrested in Russia on Friday in connection to the funeral, with many being arrested as they traveled from around the country to attend.

The funeral marks one of the only major displays of internal dissent since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The one other major event was a Jan. 17 protest of around 5,000-10,000 people in the Siberian province of Bashkortostan who were demonstrating against the sentencing of Bashkir nationalist Fail Alsynov. The protest was unrelated to the war in Ukraine.

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