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Photo Credit: Gabriel Bouys

Alexei Navalny set to be freed in prisoner swap before untimely death

Well-known ally of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Maria Pevchikh, revealed that a two-year negotiation for a prisoner swap was in its final stages on February 15th when Navalny died the next day. Navalny was set to be exchanged for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian hitman serving a life sentence in Germany. Two American prisoners in Russia were also involved in the prisoner exchange, although they were not named.

Pevchikh, the chairwoman of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), said he “had to be freed from jail at any cost, and urgently.” At the last minute, Russian President Vladimir Putin reneged on the deal, and is widely believed to have ordered the death of Navalny. “Putin has gone mad with hatred for Navalny,” Pevchikh said, “He knows Navalny could’ve defeated him.” It is likely that Putin never intended to set Navalny free. Pevchikh did not release any documentation of these supposed negotiations.

According to The Guardian, Putin previously said that he was open to exchanging American journalist Evan Gershkovich for Krasikov, and previously requested Krasikov in exchange for US marine Paul Whelan. Both Americans are being held on charges of espionage. Putin is eager to bring “patriot” Krasikov home.

Prison authorities at the penal colony referred to as the “Polar Wolf” refused to hand over Navalny’s remains to his family for eight days. It is unclear where Navalny will be buried, but it is expected that he will be interred in Moscow. Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of the deceased, was allegedly given the ultimatum to either have a private funeral service or Navalny would be buried at the prison. The Kremlin denies the allegations, with spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying “I can’t comment in any way because the Kremlin has nothing to do with this, so the Kremlin cannot exert pressure. This is another absurd statement by these [Navalny] supporters. They are almost all wanted [by the Russian authorities] and almost all of them are abroad. Their statements should be treated accordingly.”

“We are looking for a hall for a public farewell to Alexei… If you have a suitable venue, please contact us,” Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. This event is meant for Navalny supporters and mourners to come together to honor his legacy.


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