Alexei Navalny’s funeral is set to be held on Friday in Moscow days after authorities finally handed his body to his mother, more than a week after he died in an Arctic prison.

“Alexei’s funeral will be held at the ‘Mother of God Quench My Sorrows’ church in Maryino on 1 March at 14:00 (1100 GMT). Come in advance,” his spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh said in a social media post on Wednesday.

His burial will take place at the nearby Borisov cemetery, they said. His allies have labelled it as an attempt to stall a public burial, AFP reported.

The announcement of the funeral comes after his team failed to find a church willing to host the farewell service.

“We started to look for a church and a hall for the 1st of March. Everywhere they refused to give us anything. In some places we were told it was forbidden,” said exiled ally Ivan Zhdanov.

“We don’t care about the message. Alexei needs to be buried … To have a chance to say goodbye, it is better to come in advance,” he added.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic, died on February 16 in one of Russia’s toughest prisons in northern Siberia, where he was serving a 19-year sentence on charges widely seen as political retribution for his opposition.

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