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Heavy Police Presence Ahead of Navalny’s Funeral

Workers unload metal fencing outside of the Moscow church where Navalny's funeral service is supposed to take place. Olga Maltseva / AFP

Mourners of late opposition activist Alexei Navalny gathered under heavy police presence as they waited outside the Russian Orthodox church in southeastern Moscow where his memorial service will take place later Friday. 

Authorities have installed metal detectors, security cameras and metal fencing around the perimeter of the church, as well as the nearby cemetery where Navalny will be buried. 

By noon local time, scores of mourners could be seen standing in line outside as they waited for the start of the funeral service, which is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.

Police officers could be seen patrolling the area on horseback, according to the Ostorozhno Novosti news channel, while two Moscow Times reporters on the ground said there were disruptions to mobile internet service near the church.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic, died two weeks ago at the Arctic penal colony where he was being held on charges widely seen as retribution for his political activism.

Russian authorities said he died of “natural causes” after he lost consciousness following a walk, but his allies accuse the Kremlin of killing him.

Russian investigators handed over Navalny's body to his mother after a more than a week-long fight over his release.

His allies said previously the Kremlin was trying to block a public funeral, which could turn into a show of support for his movement and his opposition to Putin.

Navalny’s team said Thursday that funeral homes in Moscow were refusing to transport his body to the church where Friday's memorial service is scheduled.

And on Friday, the late activist's spokeswoman had said there may be “delays” with the memorial service as his relatives were not able to immediately receive his body from the morgue. 

However, around 12:30 Moscow time, allies said Navalny's body had been loaded into a hearse, which they said would take around 40 minutes to reach the church in southeastern Moscow. 

Navalny's team has urged supporters who cannot attend the funeral service in Moscow to honor his memory at makeshift memorials Friday evening.

The Kremlin told reporters later on Friday that it had “nothing to say” to the relatives of Navalny on the day of his funeral, while also warning that anyone who participated in unsanctioned protests following the activist's memorial service would “be held legally responsible.”

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