HomeWorld NewsNavalny aide says prisoner swap was in the works before his death

Navalny aide says prisoner swap was in the works before his death

Negotiations were underway on a prisoner exchange that would have involved swapping Alexei Navalny and two Americans for a Russian agent imprisoned in Germany, when the Russian opposition leader died in prison, one of his associates said Monday.

Maria Pevchikh, who chairs Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said in a video address on YouTube that negotiations were in their final stages on Feb. 15 just before his death in the “Polar Wolf” prison colony in the Yamalo-Nenets region of northern Russia.

She alleged that Russian President Vladimir Putin, having gained Germany’s agreement to include Vadim Krasikov in a prisoner swap, then decided to “get rid of the bargaining chip,” by having Navalny killed, so that the agent imprisoned for murder could be exchanged for someone else.

Russia’s investigation into Navalny’s death concluded that he died of “natural causes,” and the Kremlin has strongly criticized Western leaders for holding Putin responsible.

In Krasikov’s trial, German prosecutors said he was acting on the orders of Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, when he shot and killed a former Chechen rebel, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, in a Berlin park in broad daylight in 2019.

Pevchikh did not identify which Americans would have been included in the exchange. But Putin, in a recent interview with former Fox News television host Tucker Carlson, hinted he would be willing to exchange Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested last March and accused of espionage, for Krasikov, whom he described as acting out of “patriotic” motives.

Gershkovich, his employer and the State Department have strongly denied the Russian charges against him.

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