Allies of Alexei Navalny claim the Kremlin is attempting to obstruct his funeral

According to the foundation of former opposition activist Alexei Navalny, plans to hold his funeral on Thursday have been disrupted due to a scheduling conflict with an address by President Vladimir Putin.

Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, expressed his frustration in a statement on Wednesday. He revealed that the team had faced difficulties in securing a venue for the funeral and were unable to hire a hall for people to gather and pay their respects to the beloved anti-corruption activist. Despite these obstacles, Navalny’s team encouraged individuals to find their own ways to honor him, as a central venue was not available.

Since his death in an Arctic penal colony on Feb. 16, at the age of 47, Russia has experienced a surge of support for Navalny. Under Putin’s rule, the country has become more repressive, with a suppression of free speech and political opposition.

According to rights groups, hundreds of individuals were apprehended in the aftermath of his demise, with crowds of people flocking to impromptu memorials adorned with flowers and candles, along with monuments dedicated to other victims of political oppression. Activists argue that the Russian government is determined to suppress any future dissent associated with his legacy.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Navalny, expressed uncertainty regarding the nature of the farewell gathering for her late husband. In her address to the European Parliament, she wondered whether the event would unfold peacefully or if the attendees would face arrest by the police.

According to Navalnaya, her husband’s death served as a stark reminder that Putin is a man capable of anything and that negotiation with him is futile.

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Just hours before Navalnaya addressed the crowd, Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s foundation, took to social media to share information about alleged efforts to disrupt the funeral arrangements.

Navalny’s team faced difficulties in finding a suitable venue to host the funeral and bury him on Thursday. This is because Putin is scheduled to deliver his annual address to Russia’s parliament, the Federal Assembly, on the same day.

“The Kremlin is well aware that on the day of bidding farewell to Alexei, people will not be interested in Putin and his address,” Zhdanov expressed. “Our focus is not on the address. Our priority is to ensure that Alexei is given a proper burial.”

On Friday, Zhdanov and his team successfully located a church and a cemetery. However, their efforts to find a spacious hall have been unsuccessful so far.

Zhdanov revealed that the condition of having “a quiet family funeral with farewell at the Khovanskoye cemetery” was once again proposed, without mentioning the source of this demand.

He stated that there would not be a hall in general and mentioned that no specific date or venue had been provided. Furthermore, he urged his followers to bid farewell to Alexei despite the lack of a formal gathering.

NBC News reached out to Russian officials and Ritual, the state company responsible for funeral services, for their input on the matter.

Russian authorities have reported that Alexei Navalny, who had previously survived at least one assassination attempt, passed away while being held in custody at a Siberian prison. The Russian Prison Service stated that he became unwell after going for a walk and quickly lost consciousness.

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According to five sources who spoke to NBC News on Tuesday, Alexei Navalny’s death coincided with negotiations for his release. It was revealed that a potential deal was being discussed, although it was not considered imminent at the time of Navalny’s death. Two unauthorized sources shared that the proposed agreement would have involved the release of journalist Evan Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan.

Alexander Smith, a senior reporter for NBC News Digital based in London, brings his extensive experience and expertise to deliver top-notch news coverage.

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