More than 130 people detained for mourning Alexei Navalny as his funeral garners huge crowds

Despite the risk of arrest, hundreds turned out to mourn a man seen, by many, as a hero, ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports

At least 131 people were detained at events across Russia held in Alexei Navalny's memory, OVD-Info, a rights group that tracks political arrests, said.

Most people were stopped while trying to lay flowers at monuments dedicated to victims of Soviet repression.

Mourners clapped and chanted "Navalny" as the coffin bearing the body of the Putin critic arrived at a church in Moscow for the opposition leader's funeral.

He was then buried after a short Russian Orthodox ceremony, with vast crowds waiting outside the church and then streaming to the fresh grave with flowers.

There was a heavy police presence at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows.

Ahead of the short service, the wife of the late Kremlin critic said she was concerned that police will crack down on mourners at his funeral.

Writing on X, Yulia Navalnaya said Navalny's family and supporters did not want "special treatment" and only an "opportunity to say farewell to Alexei in a normal way".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged those gathering in Moscow and other places not to break the law, saying any “unauthorised (mass) gatherings" are violations.

Anatoly Navalny, right, and Lyudmila Navalnaya, parents of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Credit: AP
Riot police officers guard the area near the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, in Moscow. Credit: AP

On Friday morning, Russian riot police lined the road from the church to a nearby underground station, while crowd control barriers were also in place.

Mr Navalny's aids were only able to make arrangements for his funeral after spending more than a week trying to retrieve his body.

His mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, has accused Russian authorities of "blackmailing" her by threatening to bury her son without a funeral unless she agreed to "conditions for where, when and how" he should be buried.

A video shared by independent Russian news outlet SOTA on Thursday shows police cars stationed near the main entrance to Borisov Cemetery and security barriers in preparation for the funeral

The Kremlin denied her allegations.

Russian authorities have not announced the cause of death, who crusaded against official corruption and organised big protests as Putin’s fiercest political foe.

Mr Navalny's death was met with grief and anger across the world as well as inside Russia, where the smallest acts of political dissent carry huge risks.

More than 400 people were detained at makeshift memorials for Mr Navalny across 32 Russian cities, according to human rights monitoring group OVD-Info.

Mr Nalavny's aides said many churches were not willing to host his funeral.

"Everywhere they refused to give us anything. Somewhere they directly referred to the ban," Ivan Zdhanov, the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, wrote on X.

"We don't care about the message. Alexei needs to be buried."

Police officers stand guard at the Borisov Cemetery where Alexei Navalny's funeral will be held. Credit: AP

Lessons from Alexei Navalny

In an address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, Yulia Navalnaya said that it needed to combat Russian President Vladimir Putin with renewed vigour and learn from the innovative methods of her husband.

She said the world "rushed to Ukraine's aid" in the initial months of Russia's full-scale invasion, but that, after two years of fighting, "there is much exhaustion, much blood, much disappointment - and Putin has gone nowhere".

Alexei Navalny with his wife Yulia after a rally in Moscow in 2013. Credit: AP

"Everything has already been used: Weapons, money, sanctions. Nothing is working. And the worst has happened. Everyone got used to the war. Here and there people start to say: Well, we'll have to come to an agreement with Putin anyway," she said.

But she added her husband, who spent years documenting corruption in Russia, had shown that Putin is not invulnerable.

"This is the answer to the question. If you really want to defeat Putin, you have to become an innovator. You have to stop being boring. You cannot hurt Putin with another resolution or another set of sanctions that is no different from the previous ones," she said.

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Instead, she said European politicians needed to pursue Putin's "friends, associates, the keepers of mafia money. You and all of us must fight the criminal gangs".

She urged lawmakers to "apply the methods of fighting organised crime" rather than standard "political competition".

Ms Navalnaya's comments come as Western officials have for months debated whether to divert some 300 billion euros (£257 billion) of frozen Russian assets to help repair Ukraine's war-torn economy.

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