Navalny: Van drivers refuse to transport body to Moscow funeral, says Putin's team of critics

Pavel Golovkin/AP

Alexei Navalny pictured in February 2019.



CNN

Attempts to rent a transport vehicle to transport the body Alexei Navalny Unidentified persons thwarted his funeral procession Leader of the Russian opposition The team said Thursday.

Spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh claimed that the drivers “were called by unknown people and threatened not to take Alexei's body anywhere.”

Yarmysh said she was told that “no transport vehicle would agree to transport the body there.”

Navalny's team also had difficulty choosing a location for his funeral, which will be held at 2 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET) Friday at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God in Moscow's Maryino district, where the opposition leader lives. Then he will be buried in Borisov cemetery.

Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Church of the Icon of the Mother of God in Moscow where Navalny's funeral will be held.

Yarmysh said on Tuesday that several venues claimed to be busy, or refused to book once Navalny's name was mentioned, while one venue explicitly said it was banned from working with Navalny's team.

The team had initially planned to hold a public send-off and funeral for the late Russian opposition leader on Thursday, but were told that “there were no cemetery workers available who could dig a grave,” said Ivan Zhdanov, director of the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation. Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, on Thursday. Wednesday.

Navalny died on February 16 in a penal colony in Siberia, where he was serving a 19-year prison sentence after being convicted of forming an extremist community, financing extremist activists, and various other crimes in August. He was already serving an 11-and-a-half-year prison sentence in a maximum security facility for fraud and other charges which he always denied and claimed were politically motivated.

Russia's prison service said Navalny “felt unwell after an outing” at his penal colony in Siberia and lost consciousness “almost immediately.”

Navalny was Russia's most prominent opposition leader and spent years criticizing Putin, who has been in power for nearly a quarter of a century, at great personal risk. His death came weeks before the country Presidential elections It is scheduled to begin nationwide on March 15, and is widely viewed by the international community as nothing more than a formality that will guarantee Putin a fifth term in power.

Navalny's death was met with grief and anger around the world as well as within Russia, where even the smallest acts of political dissent carry great risks.

He returned to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he was treated after being poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent dating back to the Soviet era. Upon his arrival, Navalny was quickly arrested — on charges he dismissed as politically motivated — and spent the rest of his life in prison.

His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, held Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for her husband's death.

“Putin killed my husband,” she said during a speech in the European Parliament on Wednesday. “On his orders, Alexei was tortured for three years,” she added, referring to the time Navalny spent in prison.

He was starving in a small stone cell, cut off from the outside world and denied visits and phone calls. And then even the letters. And then they killed him. “Even after that, they abused his body,” she said, with Navalny’s team claiming the body was kept in order to pressure the family to agree to a private funeral.

The Kremlin rejected any allegations of involvement in Navalny's death.

Navalnaya also said she was concerned that police would suppress mourners at the funeral on Friday.

There were more than 400 people detained At makeshift memorials to Navalny in 32 Russian cities, according to human rights monitoring group OVD-Info.

CNN's Anna Chernova contributed to this report.

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