Navalny team says prisoner swap was close before his death

Navalny team says prisoner swap was close before his death

/ 06:27 AM February 27, 2024

People hold portraits of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

People hold portraits of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in a Russian Arctic prison, as they gather to pay their tribute during a candle vigil in downtown Zagreb on February 23, 2024. (Photo by DAMIR SENCAR / AFP)

Warsaw, Poland — Allies of late Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny said Monday that a deal to free him as part of a prisoner swap had nearly been reached when he died in prison.

The 47-year-old Kremlin critic died on February 16 in an Arctic prison after spending more than three years behind bars, prompting outrage and condemnation from Western leaders and his supporters.


READ: Navalny’s body given to his mother, his team says


Russian President Vladimir Putin “was offered to exchange FSB officer and killer Vadim Krasikov, who is serving time for murder in Berlin, for two American citizens and Alexei Navalny,” ally Maria Pevchikh said.

“I have received confirmation that negotiations were underway and were at the final stage” after two years of talks between Moscow, Washington and Berlin, she added.

“Navalny was supposed to be released in the coming days,” she added.

Krasikov is serving a life sentence in Germany for the 2019 killing of former separatist commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in a Berlin park, which German authorities say was ordered by Russian intelligence services.

Asked about the claims during a regular briefing, the German government’s spokeswoman declined to comment, as did the German foreign minister.

The United States declined to comment on whether it was working on a swap for Navalny.


READ: Who was Alexei Navalny and what did he say of Russia, Putin, and death?

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller reiterated that the United States in December had proposed a swap to free two Americans, former US marine Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, and said the United States would not say more about the negotiations.

“All I will say about this matter is that we have long called for the release of Alexei Navalny,” Miller told reporters in Washington.

Washington has accused Moscow of arresting American citizens on baseless charges to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of Russians convicted abroad.

‘Russian regime’ 

News of a purported prisoner swap came as questions continued to swirl over the circumstances of Navalny’s death, which Western countries have blamed on the Kremlin.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday the “Russian regime” was responsible.

“His death is the consequence of a dictatorship in which people who rebel against the president and the government have to fear for their freedom and their lives,” he said on social media.

Leaders of the G7 nations on Saturday called on Russia to “fully clarify” how the Kremlin critic, who suffered increasingly deteriorating conditions in his confinement, came to die.

Navalny’s body was finally handed to his mother Lyudmila Navalnaya on Saturday, more than a week after he died in a remote Arctic prison colony.

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

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The Russian leader, who famously never said Navalny’s name in public, has not commented on the death of his most vocal critic.

TAGS: Alexei Navalny, Russia

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