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Putin Claims He Agree To Prisoner Swap For Navalny In First Public Comments About Opposition Leader’s Death

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Updated Mar 18, 2024, 01:53am EDT

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he had supported a prisoner swap deal that would have led to the release of Alexei Navalny, in his first public comments about the opposition leader since he died in prison last month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters.

Getty Images

Speaking to reporters after he won the Russian Presidential election—an expected result after cracking down on all serious opposition efforts—Putin responded to questions about the circumstances around Navalny’s death by saying he simply “passed away.”

The Russian president added, “It happens. There is nothing you can do about it. It’s life,” according to the Associated Press.

Putin’s comments were one of the rare instances where he mentioned Navalny by name in public and said “certain colleagues” proposed the idea of swapping the opposition leader for “certain people held in penitentiary facilities in Western countries.”

Putin said he agreed to the proposal even before the person talking to him finished his sentence, but only on the condition that Navalny would never return to Russia.

“Unfortunately, whatever happened, happened,” the Russian leader said without offering any additional details, including the identity of the person whose release Russia had sought in return.

Putin’s remarks confirm a statement made last month by Maria Pevchikh, a close ally of Navalny and the chair of his Anti-Corruption Foundation. In a video published on Navanly’s official YouTube channel, Pevchikh said his team was in the final stages of negotiating a prisoner swap deal a day before his death. The anti-corruption activist also claimed Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was actively involved in the negotiations. While Putin did not name the person who floated the proposal to him, he said they were “not from the administration.” In her remarks, Pevchikh said Putin deliberately had Navalny killed just days before his release because he could not “tolerate” the thought of Navalny being free.

News Peg

Along with Navalny, the deal would have also secured the release of two U.S. citizens, Pevchikh claimed. While she did not name the two U.S. citizens who were part of the negotiations, U.S. officials have been attempting to secure the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan—who are currently being held in Russia on espionage charges that Washington says are bogus. The anti-corruption activist mentioned Russia had sought the release of convicted Russian assassin Vadim Krasikov—who is currently jailed in Germany—as part of the deal.

Commenting on Navalny’s death for first time, Putin says he supported prisoner swap for his foe (Associated Press)

Navalny Was Close To Being Released In Prisoner Swap Before He Died, Ally Says (Forbes)

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