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Putin attends funeral of legendary rights advocate Alekseeva (VIDEO)

Putin attends funeral of legendary rights advocate Alekseeva (VIDEO)
The funeral of legendary Russian human rights defender Lyudmila Alekseeva is being held in Moscow. The solemn ceremony is being attended by prominent public figures across the political spectrum.

Alekseeva died on Saturday last week at the venerable age of 91. A former dissident in the Soviet Union, she was a monumental figure in the Russian human rights movement, remaining an active participant as long as she could.

In the West, she is best known for heading the Moscow Helsinki Group. The leading Russian advocacy group traces its history back to a dissident fellowship established in 1976 and saw resurgence during the years of Perestroika, becoming one of the biggest human rights organizations in the country.

Alekseeva’s funeral on Tuesday is a rare event bringing together both veteran government officials like Parliament Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, and the fiercest critics of the Russian government like opposition leader Aleksey Navalny.

Putin also visited the funeral to lay flowers at the casket as Alekseeva’s body was lying in state at a church, and expressed his condolences to her family and fellow rights activists.

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Mikhail Fedotov, chair of the presidential Human Rights Council, of which Alekseeva was a member for many years, said in his speech that she was “a white angel of hope” for people fighting for human rights in Russia. He believes her place as an iconic champion will long be vacant.

Human rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova said Alekseeva’s attitude to the cause was almost “fanatical” and should be emulated by followers.

“They say an epoch is gone, but I believe an epoch has just started, because this small woman of giant willpower inspired it,” she said.

Valery Borshchev, a fellow member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said Alekseeva was always willing to go to great personal sacrifice and knew how to speak “to people in power with courage and resolve.”

Some public figures did not attend the funeral in person, but made public statements about the passage of Alekseeva. Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet president, called the rights defender an “inspiring example of a citizen with a stance and a patriot” in a statement. He added that she dedicated her life “to what every person would consider primary values – freedom, dignity and human rights”.

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