More than a quarter of a million people watched Aleksei Navalny's funeral on his YouTube channel

Thousands of Russians chanted Alexei Navalny's name and said they would not forgive the authorities for his death as the opposition leader was laid to rest in Moscow on Friday, Reuters reports.

At a cemetery not far from where Navalny once lived, his mother Lyudmila and father Anatoly stooped over his open coffin to kiss him for the last time as a small group of musicians played.

Crossing themselves, mourners stepped forward to caress his face before a priest gently placed a white shroud over him and the coffin was closed.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critic inside Russia, died at the age of 47 in an Arctic penal colony on Feb. 16., sparking accusations from his supporters that he had been murdered. The Kremlin has denied any state involvement in his death.

The authorities have outlawed his movement as extremist and cast his supporters as U.S.-backed troublemakers out to foment revolution. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had nothing to say to Navalny's family.

Many thousands of people turned out to pay their respects at the cemetery and earlier outside the Soothe My Sorrows church in southeast Moscow where the funeral took place.

Among the large crowd, many people clutched bunches of flowers and some joined in a series of chants - "Russia will be free", "No to war", "Russia without Putin", "We won't forgive" and "Putin is a murderer".

Police were present in large numbers at what evolved into one of the biggest displays of anti-Kremlin dissent in years, but for the most part did not intervene. A rights group, OVD-Info, reported that 91 people had been detained in 12 towns and cities, including Moscow.

Despite Friday's high turnout and flashes of defiance, Navalny's death leaves Russia's fragmented opposition in an even more precarious position as Putin prepares to extend his 24-year rule by another six years in an election this month. All of the president's leading critics are behind bars or have fled the country.

Even from prison, Navalny had cheered his supporters with displays of resilience and humour in his frequent legal hearings and social media posts. His death leaves many feeling bereft.

"I want to do what Navalny told us to and not give up but I don't know what to do right now," said one young man in the crowd.

On a memorial website, opens new tab, more than 140,000 people lit "virtual candles" for Navalny. It was unclear how many of those were inside Russia.

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