Floral Homage to Alexei Navalny Dismantled, Mourners Apprehended in Russian Urban Centers

Floral tributes to opposition leader Alexei Navalny pulled down and mourners detained in Russian cities

Floral tributes honoring Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s prominent critic, who passed away on Friday in a Russian penal colony, were removed overnight by unidentified groups while police stood by, as shown in videos circulating on Russian social media.

Reports from OVD-Info, an organization monitoring political repression in Russia, indicate that over 100 individuals were detained across eight cities in Russia for attempting to lay flowers in Navalny’s memory. In Novosibirsk, Siberia, and Surgut, police blocked access to memorials and detained several people, according to OVD-Info.

Video footage from Novosibirsk depicted individuals placing red flowers in the snow under police supervision, who cordoned off the memorial area. Similarly, in Moscow, a large group removed flowers from a memorial near the headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service while police observed. However, more flowers appeared at the site by morning.

Floral Homage to Alexei Navalny Dismantled, Mourners Apprehended in Russian Urban Centers
Floral Homage to Alexei Navalny Dismantled, Mourners Apprehended in Russian Urban Centers (Credits: NBC News)

Navalny’s death comes less than a month before an election set to extend Putin’s presidency for another six years. Nigel Gould-Davies, a former British ambassador to Belarus and a senior fellow for Russia & Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, remarked that Navalny’s demise illustrates that opposition in Russia faces not only imprisonment but also death.

The circumstances surrounding Navalny’s death remain largely unclear. The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service reported that Navalny fell ill after a walk on Friday and lost consciousness at the penal colony in Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region. Despite efforts by an ambulance crew, Navalny couldn’t be revived, and the cause of death is still under investigation.

Navalny had been imprisoned since January 2021, following his return to Moscow from Germany, where he was recovering from nerve agent poisoning he attributed to the Kremlin. He faced multiple convictions, which he deemed politically motivated, culminating in a 19-year sentence for extremism.

Hours after Navalny’s death was announced, his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, made a poignant appearance at a security conference in Germany. She expressed uncertainty about the news from official Russian sources and emphasized that Putin and his associates would be held accountable for their actions against her family and her husband.

U.S. President Joe Biden stated that while Washington doesn’t have precise details, Navalny’s death resulted from actions taken by Putin and his cohorts. Biden praised Navalny’s courage in returning to Russia despite the risks, citing his deep belief in his country.

In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz remarked that Navalny likely paid for his courage with his life. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Putin was informed of Navalny’s death, while Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, relayed that his family had been notified.

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