Navalny Supporters Flock To Grave To Pay Respects, Gain Hope

Navalny supporters flock to grave to pay respects, gain hope

Moscow, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 3rd Mar, 2024) Hundreds of Alexei Navalny supporters queued to lay flowers and pay tribute to the deceased opposition leader on Sunday, in a significant show of support for the anti-corruption campaigner, who died last month in an Arctic prison colony.

The outpouring of affection for President Vladimir Putin's staunchest opponent comes just two weeks before the Kremlin leader is set to secure another six-year term in an election where he will face no real competition.

Long queues formed Sunday outside the Borisovo cemetery in southern Moscow -- where Navalny was buried on Friday -- for the third day running, following his shock death last month.

"It's a sign that people are feeling the extent of the loss, the scale of the person, they feel exactly what this person did for the country," Alexander, a 29-year-old engineer told AFP at the cemetery on Sunday.

"I'm here for the second time simply to be around my friends. You can say these people who are here are my loved ones," said Irina, in her 70s.

Thousands came to Navalny's funeral service and burial on Friday, even as the Kremlin warned mourners they could be arrested if they are seen to break Moscow's strict anti-protest laws that ban unsanctioned public demonstrations and gatherings.

"It's good to know there's a lot of us," said Svetlana, a 65-year-old pensioner.

"People love him. They want to express their love," she added.

Those who spoke to AFP on Sunday declined to give their surnames.

Since launching its full-scale military offensive against Ukraine, Russian authorities have waged an intense crackdown on public shows of dissent or opposition to the Kremlin.

Police retained a presence at the cemetery on Sunday, though it was lighter than in previous days and there were no signs of mass arrests.

Queues to enter the cemetery snaked alongside a major road for about half a kilometre on Sunday afternoon.

Mourners laid stacks of red, white and yellow roses and carnations on his grave. By Sunday afternoon the pile was almost two metres high, with an Orthodox cross at the head of the grave barely visible above the flowers.

- 'Catastrophe' -

There was a mix of anger, grief, hope and despair among the crowds on Sunday.

"I don't even know what to say. I am very sorry that this is happening in our country right now, and that we are all mourning for the man he was. I hope someday everything will stop. Maybe the catastrophe will stop and we can finally live in peace and happiness," said Anastasia, a 28-year-old designer.

Almost all of Russia's opposition figures have been jailed, have died or fled abroad during Putin's 24-year rule.

Navalny's allies have accused the Kremlin of ordering him killed and Western leaders have said Putin is "responsible" for his death.

Putin has not commented publicly on the death of his most vocal critic.

Alexander, a 45-year-old audio engineer said the large crowds backing Navalny was its own form of voting -- ahead of a March 15-17 presidential election, dismissed as neither free nor fair by rights groups and independent vote monitors.

"Everybody is showing their opinion," he told AFP.

Authorities have scrubbed all genuine opposition candidates from the ballot, while the country's most prominent Putin critics who are still alive are in prison or abroad.

Graphic designer Olga, 25, who also came to the cemetery on Friday, said she took encouragement from the large turnout.

"It's hard. But when I came here on the first day ... and saw the people, somehow some kind of strength appeared," she told AFP.

"I didn't want to give up at all. So it's hard, but it feels like something is being revived inside. I don't want to give up and I won't give up. Just like Alexei asked," she said.