Navalny Identified by Putin in Potential Prisoner Swap Agreement

Navalny Identified by Putin in Potential Prisoner Swap Agreement
Alexei Navalny died in an Arctic penal colony last month and supporters say he was killed by Russian authorities

Navalny Identified by Putin in Potential Prisoner Swap Agreement

Vladimir Putin, notorious for his reluctance to address his primary opponent in Russia, Alexei Navalny, by name, seems to have shifted his approach following Navalny’s death. After securing his fifth term as president, Putin acknowledged Navalny’s passing, describing it as a “sad event” during a press briefing.

Putin also hinted at the potential inclusion of Navalny in a prisoner exchange. Despite Navalny’s associates asserting that he was murdered by Russian authorities while incarcerated in an Arctic jail, official reports attribute his death to natural causes. US President Joe Biden condemned Navalny’s demise as further proof of Putin’s brutality.

Putin disclosed that he had been informed about a proposed swap involving Navalny by individuals outside his administration a few days before Navalny’s death. He claimed to have agreed to the swap under the condition that Navalny would not return, stating, “But, unfortunately, what happened, happened.”

Some analysts interpret Putin’s remarks as an effort to distance himself from Navalny’s death. Exiled Russian journalist Roman Dobrokhotov sees it as an attempt to portray the situation as unfavorable for Putin, suggesting, “it was unprofitable for me, I wanted to exchange him.” However, Navalny’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, believes Putin’s statements indicate that he no longer feels compelled to feign indifference.

Observers note that Putin had only mentioned Navalny’s name once before in 2013, justifying his avoidance by presenting Navalny as one of many opposition figures, despite his significant performance in Moscow’s mayoral election.

Independent journalist Farida Rustamova suggests that Putin’s newfound willingness to mention Navalny’s name may stem from a perception that Navalny no longer poses a threat.

During his remarks, Putin drew comparisons between Navalny’s death in custody and similar incidents in the US, suggesting that deaths in custody occur in various countries.

Maria Pevchikh, a colleague of Navalny, expressed dismay at Putin’s cynicism. Pevchikh had earlier implied that Navalny was on the verge of being exchanged for a Russian hitman serving a life sentence for murder in Germany.

This hitman, Vadim Krasikov, was convicted of the 2019 murder of a Chechen exile in Berlin. Negotiations for Navalny’s release reportedly involved two American citizens detained in Russia and had progressed significantly before Navalny’s sudden death.

Although the Kremlin never officially confirmed these negotiations, Putin had previously hinted at the possibility of swapping Krasikov for Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter detained in Russia. Another American, Paul Whelan, has been held in Russian custody for over five years, while US-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva was arrested in October.

Putin refrained from mentioning Krasikov by name, describing him last month as someone who, “due to patriotic sentiments, eliminated a bandit in one of the European capitals,” suggesting that the murder was independently committed. However, judges at Krasikov’s trial concluded that the murder was orchestrated by Russian state authorities, resulting in diplomatic tensions between Russia and Germany.

 

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