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Kremlin Backtracks On Reports that Navalny Was to be Swapped In Prisoner Exchange

In his first remarks on the activist’s death, which he described as a “sad event” Putin told a victory rally in Moscow Sunday that he had agreed to swap Navalny for "some people" currently imprisoned in the West.
vladimir putin, navalny

The Kremlin on Monday denied that newly re-elected President Vladimir Putin had confirmed talks to exchange jailed opposition activist Alexei Navalny had taken place shortly before his death at an Arctic penal colony last month, reports the Moscow Times.

In his first remarks on the activist’s death, which he described as a “sad event,” Putin told a victory rally in Moscow Sunday that he had agreed to swap Navalny for “some people” currently imprisoned in the West.

Using his name in public for the first time in years during a televised news conference, Putin said: “As for Mr. Navalny. Yes, he passed away. This is always a sad event.” He then went on to add that a colleague had proposed swapping Navalny several days before he died for “some people” currently held in prisons in Western countries. “The person who was talking to me hadn’t finished his sentence, and I said ‘I agree’.”

This seemed to endorse claims by Navalny’s supporters that negotiations to exchange him for a Russian convicted of murder in Germany were in the “final stages” before the late Kremlin critic suddenly died on Feb. 16, the Moscow Times said. Subsequently, Kremlin Press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the Russian leader’s willingness to exchange Navalny “showed his transparency.”

Responding to a journalist’s request to comment on Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya’s allegations that her husband was murdered, he said “This is not the case.” Referring to Putin’s remarks about his readiness to exchange Navalny, he said “Putin’s attitude [to this issue] shows his openness. He was really ready to do this.”

However, on Monday, Peskov told reporters at a briefing that “President Putin did not confirm yesterday that negotiations were held. You probably didn’t listen to him attentively. He (Putin) said that one of the people put forward an idea about exchanging Navalny, to which he potentially agreed, and immediately told the person who put forward such an idea about this. Putin did not say that negotiations were held on this matter.”

Earlier this month, the investigative outlet Agentstvo cited several sources to claim that Putin met with billionaire Roman Abramovich to discuss swapping Navalny for Russians jailed in the West, just hours Navalny’s death was announced. Agentstvo’s sources claimed Moscow was ready to release Navalny along with Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, both in Russian jails, said the Moscow Times.

The Agentstvo report said Germany had indicated a willingness to hand over Vadim Krasikov, currently serving a life sentence for the 2019 murder of a Chechen-Georgian rebel commander in Berlin, while another source claimed that businessman Vladislav Klyushin, who was sentenced to nine years in prison by a U.S. federal court last year for hacking and securities fraud, may have also been considered for exchange.

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“Having learned that the West was ready to give Vadim Krasikov to Russia, Putin coldly ordered the murder of Navalny,” Agentstvo quotes one of its sources as saying.

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