Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was laid to rest in Moscow on Friday, surrounded by crowds of defiant mourners who chanted his name and blamed authorities for his death in prison.

Outside the cemetery where he was buried, some supporters shouted in grief, while others yelled out slogans against the Kremlin and its offensive in Ukraine.

Despite a heavy police presence and official warnings, thousands of mourners paid their respects to the 47-year-old anti-corruption campaigner whose death in an Arctic prison was announced on February 16.

Navalny’s death has been widely condemned by Western leaders and his allies have accused President Vladimir Putin of responsibility and of trying to prevent a dignified public burial.

The Kremlin, which has dismissed the accusations as “hysterical”, warned against “unauthorised” protests around the funeral.

Navalny’s body first lay in an open casket in a packed church in Maryino, southern Moscow, for a ceremony attended by his parents.

The coffin was closed immediately after the service, meaning many mourners who had wanted to file past were not able to pay their last respects at the Mother of God Quench My Sorrows church.

It was then transported to the Borisovo cemetery, near the banks of the Moskva River, where several large wreaths were arranged around the grave.

“We won’t forget you!”, “Forgive us!” some mourners shouted as the coffin arrived.

“No to war!” some chanted. Others yelled out: “Down with the power of murderers!” and “We will not forgive!”. Many opponents blame Putin for the death of his top critic.

Police detained some six people in the capital and dozens elsewhere in Russia, according to the OVD-Info rights group.

“Any unauthorised gatherings will be in violation of the law and those who participate in them will be held responsible,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to TASS news agency.

“What are they afraid of? Why so many cars?” one mourner, Anna Stepanova, told AFP outside the church.

“The people who came here, they are not scared. Alexei wasn’t either.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised the thousands who turned out as “courageous”.

The French, German and US ambassadors were seen among mourners outside the church, as were some of Russia’s last free independent politicians.

Music from “Terminator 2” — Navalny’s favourite film  — was played as the coffin was lowered, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said.

The dissident’s widow Yulia Navalnaya, who did not attend, paid tribute to her husband on social media.

“I don’t know how to live without you, but I will try my best to make you up there happy for me and proud of me. I don’t know if I’ll make it or not, but I’ll try,” she said.

“I love you forever. Rest in peace,” she wrote.

Navalnaya has also blamed Putin for her husband’s death.

Putin’s spokesman Peskov has criticised the accusations made by her and some Western leaders as “vulgar”.

As the funeral went ahead, Peskov said he had “nothing to say” to the family of the deceased.

With AFP