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Putin killed Navalny because negotiations for his release in prisoner swap were nearing completion, Navalny associate Maria Pevchikh says

Source: Meduza

Maria Pevchikh, the chairwoman of Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said in a video statement published on Monday that Vladimir Putin killed Navalny because Navalny’s team had “secured a decision on his exchange.”

In early February, Pevchikh said, Vladimir Putin was given an offer to exchange Alexey Navalny and “two American citizens” for ex-FSB officer Vadim Krasikov, who killed the former Chechen field commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Germany in 2019.

“I received confirmation that the negotiations were at their final stage on the evening of February 15,” Pevchikh said. “On February 16, Alexey was killed.”

“After the start of the war, it became clear that we needed to get Navalny out of prison at any cost — urgently,” Pevchikh said. Because Alexey Navalny is a Russian citizen, she explained, his team decided to seek a “humanitarian exchange,” which allows foreign countries to release Russian spies in exchange for political prisoners.

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While Navalny’s associates compiled a list of Russian political prisoners whose release they would seek, Pevchikh said, investigative journalist Christo Grozev “searched for and identified” Russian spies in prison abroad.

“It took us two whole years to implement this plan. It could have taken less,” she said:

Had there been desire and political will, this would have been a matter of months, not years. But there wasn’t enough desire or will. Enormous efforts, endless persuasion, weeks of waiting for responses, dozens of trips, and hundreds of unanswered calls. American and German officials nodded understandingly. They talked about how important it was to help Navalny and other political prisoners, shook our hands, made promises, and did nothing.

The team ultimately made progress with the help of influential people who led “unofficial negotiations with Putin’s thugs,” sometimes risking their lives and careers, Pevchikh said.

The plan finally “received approval” in the spring of 2023, she continued — but this was followed by months of hesitation and miscommunication from various players. By December 2023, however, the plan was “back in action.” According to Pevchikh, there were “traces” of these “near-negotiations” in the media, including in U.S. news reports about Putin’s alleged desire to secure Krasikov’s release, as well as in Putin’s allusion to the topic in his interview with Tucker Carlson earlier this month.

“[Putin] could have gotten [Krasikov],” Pevchikh said. “But only if he gave up Navalny.”

After learning of Navalny’s death, Pevchikh said, she was told that it was Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich who ultimately delivered the proposal for the exchange to Vladimir Putin. When she contacted Abramovich for comment, he neither confirmed nor denied having served as an informal negotiator in the talks.

“I tell you this story so that you have an answer to the question of why Navalny was killed specifically now,” Pevchikh said. “It was made clear to Putin that the only way to get Krasikov would be to exchange him for Navalny.” She continued:

“I can’t tolerate Navalny being free,” thought Putin. “And since they’re willing to exchange Krasikov in principle, I just need to get rid of the bargaining chip. Then I’ll offer someone else when the time comes.”

Alexey Navalny on YouTube
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