Sunday, July 21, 2024

Alexei Navalny brought up in preliminary prisoner exchange talks before his death: official

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But this offer was never made to Russia.

After an ally of Alexei Navalny made a shock claim that the opposition leader was set to be released through a prisoner exchange when he died in a Russian penal colony earlier this month, a Western official said his name had in fact been raised in discussions. about a possible swap – but those talks were only in the early stages.

The official said Navalny had been brought up in talks between US and German officials about a possible trade between three countries, including Vadim Krasikov, a convicted Russian murderer serving a life sentence in Germany, and two wrongfully detained US citizens, but an offer was never made to Navalny. Russia.

The Western official also said it was unclear whether Germany would sign up to the arrangement or whether the proposal would be liked by Moscow.

A US official also told ABC News that the prisoner exchange involving Navalny never extended to the Kremlin.

Navalny's confidant, Maria Pevchikh, claimed in social media posts on Monday that efforts to secure his freedom in a prisoner swap had been underway for years before his death and that negotiations on a deal involving Krasikov and two Americans were “in the final stage.” “Stages” on the eve of Navalny's death, which the United States has blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denies involvement.

“The negotiations finally reached the final stage – after which Putin decided that since Krasikov was ready to extradite, he would be extradited without Navalny. So he decided to kill him,” Pevchikh claimed in a post on Telegram.

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There are two Americans the United States considers to be unjustly detained in Russia: Paul Whelan, a Marine Corps veteran, and Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Both are being held on espionage charges that US officials say are trumped up.

While the State Department announced that the United States had made Russia an offer to release Gershkovitch and Whelan in late 2023, an official said Monday that Moscow had not seriously taken up the proposal — casting further doubt on Pevchikh's claims.

“Our work to try to secure the release of Ivan Gershkovitch and Paul Whelan continues,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Monday.

Miller did not detail the ongoing efforts to free Whelan and Gershkovich for fear that any public statement on the matter could disrupt the “extremely sensitive work” that was being done. He also refused to comment on Pevcikh's assertions.

“All I will say about this matter is that we have long called for the release of Alexei Navalny, and that has been our position on the matter,” Miller said.

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Navalny, who was a vocal critic of the Kremlin, died on February 16 in an Arctic prison, where he was serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges that he and his allies said were politically motivated.

The exact cause of his death remains unknown, but the United States and other Western countries have said they hold Moscow responsible for his death and have imposed sanctions on Russian prison officials and other entities in response.

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