Navalny was close to being freed from prison before his death, says ally

Maria Pevchikh says Alexey Navalny was due to be freed in exchange for a Russian FSB assassin imprisoned in Germany.

Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny was close to being freed in a prisoner swap before his sudden death, according to his ally Maria Pevchikh.

In a video posted to YouTube on Monday, Pevchikh claimed the planned swap involved exchanging Navalny and two unnamed US nationals for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) assassin in Germany.

Navalny, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died at 47 in an Artic penal colony, where he was serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges when he reportedly collapsed after a walk on the prison grounds.

“Alexey Navalny could be sitting in this seat right now, right today. That’s not a figure of speech, it could and should have happened,” said Pevchikh.

“Navalny should have been out in the next few days because we got a decision about his exchange. In early February, Putin was offered to exchange the killer, FSB officer Vadim Krasikov, who’s serving time for a murder in Berlin, for two American citizens and Alexey Navalny.”

A German spokesperson told a press conference on Monday that the government was aware of the reports of an alleged swap, but could not comment on them.


The Russian hitman Krasikov, who was part of the alleged deal, was jailed for life in Germany after being convicted of killing an exiled Chechen-Georgian dissident in Berlin’s Tiergarten Park in 2019 – an assassination that German authorities say was ordered by Russian intelligence services.

In an interview with US journalist Tucker Carlson earlier in February, Putin signalled that he wanted to get Krasikov back.

While Pevchikh did not name who the US nationals were, Washington said previously that it was trying to return Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine, back to the United States.

Pevchikh claimed that the potential deal was in its final stages on the evening of February 15. She said Navalny was killed a day later because Putin could not tolerate the thought of him being free.

World leaders, including in the US, have placed blame for Navalny’s death at the hands of Putin and issued sanctions in response.

However, the Kremlin has denied the allegation that Moscow had anything to do with his sudden death and slammed those making allegations without providing proof.

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