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Navalny’s widow worried about arrests as funeral set for Putin critic

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexey Navalny, addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on February 28, 2024. - Johanna Geron/Reuters

The wife of the late Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny said she is concerned that police will crack down on mourners after it was announced his funeral will take place on Friday in Moscow.

Yulia Navalnaya on Wednesday addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, shortly after Navalny’s aides announced they had arranged his funeral after spending more than a week trying to retrieve his body and find a suitable venue.

“I thought that in the 12 days since Alexey’s murder, I would have time to prepare for this speech. But first we spent a week getting Alexey’s body and organizing his funeral. Then I chose the cemetery and coffin,” Navalnaya said.

“I’m not sure yet whether it will be peaceful or whether police will arrest those who have come to say goodbye to my husband,” she added.

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 Navalny across 32 Russian cities, according to human rights monitoring group OVD-Info.

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokesperson, confirmed his funeral will be held at Borisov Cemetery in Moscow’s Maryino district, where Navalny lived. She said the service will take place at 2 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET) in the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God and encouraged mourners to arrive early.

Nalavny’s aides said they began to look for a church soon after his death but that many venues 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 Wednesday on X. “We don’t care about the message. Alexey needs to be buried.”

With Navalny’s wife and team in exile, his mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, spent more than a week on a solitary mission in Siberia to retrieve her son’s body from Russian authorities, whom she accused 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. The Kremlin denied her allegations.

No more ‘boring’ sanctions

Yulia Navalnaya told the European Parliament that they needed to combat Russian President Vladimir Putin with renewed vigor 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.”

“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 said 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.

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 organized crime” rather than standard “political competition.”

“No diplomatic notes, but investigations into the financial machinations. Not statements of concern, but the search of mafia associates in your countries for discrete lawyers and financiers who are helping Putin and his friends to hide money.”

Navalnaya’s comments come as Western officials have for months debated whether to divert some 300 billion euros ($327 billion) of frozen Russian assets to help repair Ukraine’s war-torn economy.

Navalnaya lamented that her husband could not live to see the Russia he had attempted to build.

“My husband will never see what the beautiful Russia of the future will look like. But we must see it. And I will do my best to make his dream come true. The evil will fall and the beautiful future will come,” she said.

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