Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Navalny's aide says he may have been “days” away from being released in a prisoner exchange before his death



Negotiations for the release of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny A senior Navalny aide said the prisoner exchange had reached its “final stage” just before his sudden death.

Navalny and two U.S. citizens were about to be swapped for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian assassin serving a life sentence in Germany for the 2019 assassination of a former Chechen fighter in Berlin, according to Maria Pevchik, a senior Navalny aide. a video He posted it on Monday on his YouTube channel.

“Navalny was supposed to be free in the coming days because we reached a decision about exchanging him,” Pevchik said. “I received confirmation that negotiations were in their final stage on the evening of February 15.” Navalny was reported dead in an Arctic prison on February 16.

CNN was unable to independently verify Pevcik's claims. The German government refused to comment on the video. Asked about the allegations by CNN's Matthew Chance, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I know nothing about such an agreement.”

A Western official told CNN on Monday that there were early discussions about a prisoner exchange between Navalny and US citizens, but no formal offer had been made before his death. The official did not mention whether the discussions included Krasikov, nor did he mention the American citizens participating in them.

Ibrahim Norouzi/AFP

Flowers and candles are placed at a memorial for Navalny in front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, February 16, 2024.

The State Department would not comment on reports of a possible prisoner exchange, and its spokesman Matthew Miller would not clarify whether such a deal would include the two Americans who were wrongly classified as being detained in Russia: Wall Street Journal reporter Ivan Gershkovich A former US Marine Paul Whelan.

See also  Destruction in Gaza as Israel wages war on Hamas

Putin was recently He indicated his interest In a prisoner exchange with the West in which Krasikov and Gershkovitch participated. He told former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson that “an agreement can be reached” to release a man who he said “eliminated a bandit in one of the European capitals” for “patriotic reasons.”

Pevchik stated that Putin “could have had” Krasikov “if he had given up Navalny,” but claimed that since Putin could not bear the idea of ​​releasing Navalny, he instead decided to “get rid of the bargaining chip.”

The Kremlin denied any role in Navalny's death.

“It is absolutely illogical, absolutely irrational, the behavior of a mad mafia man. But the point is that Putin has gone mad because of Navalny’s hatred. Putin hates him so much that he is acting to his own detriment and against his rational interests,” Pevchik said.

The Russian prison service claims Navalny “felt unwell after the walk” and lost consciousness “almost immediately” while being detained in the “Polar Wolf” penal colony in Siberia. She said she was investigating his “sudden death.”

Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, said last week that she had signed his medical death certificate, which says he died of natural causes.

Pevchik said Navalny's team had been working on the agreement since Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine began two years ago, and accused Western officials of failing to show sufficient desire or political will to secure its exchange.

She said: “The officials, the Americans and the Germans, nodded their heads in understanding, and talked about how important it was to help Navalny and the political prisoners. They shook hands, promised, but did nothing.”

See also  Remains of the world's largest plane at Ukraine airport

She said Navalny's team took desperate measures to get him released, even calling former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whom Pevchik described as a friend of Putin's. Kissinger has since died.

Pevchik claimed that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich acted as an “unofficial negotiator” and handed over the prisoner exchange proposal to Putin. She said that Abramovich did not respond to her questions about his alleged role in the negotiations. CNN was unable to verify her claims.

Navalny joined A Long list of Russian dissidents Who died after challenging Putin's legitimacy. His death comes shortly before Russian presidential elections scheduled for March 15-17, which are widely viewed by the international community as little more than a formality that would guarantee Putin a fifth term in power and extend his rule until… At least 2030.

It was Navalny's body He returned to his mother On Saturday, more than a week after his death. Navalnaya had previously claimed that Russian authorities were as well Blackmail her By refusing to hand over her son's body until she agreed to the terms “where, when and how Alexei should be buried.”

Peskov said on Monday that Navalnaya's accusations were “ridiculous” and that the Kremlin “has nothing to do with the case” and therefore “cannot exert pressure.”

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's spokeswoman He said On Monday, his team was “looking for a hall for a public farewell to Alexei” this weekend.