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Ally Says Navalny Was Murdered As Prisoner Swap Including Americans Was Finalized

The chair of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, Maria Pevchikh, claimed in a video released Monday that Navalny was killed after negotiations reached advanced stages for a prisoner swap that would have freed him.

According to Pevchikh, she and other Navalny allies had worked for two years to broker a deal in which Navalny and two unnamed Americans would be released from Russian custody. In exchange, Germany would release Vadim Krasikov, a former KGB leader imprisoned in Berlin for murder.

Pevchikh stated that in early February, Russian authorities were offered a swap of Krasikov for the two Americans and Navalny. She said she received confirmation on February 15 that negotiations had reached final stages, but on February 16 Navalny was killed in the Serbian prison where he was being held.

The identities of the Americans were not specified, but reports have indicated jailed journalist Evan Gershkovich and Marine veteran Paul Whelan were potential candidates for the swap. Krasikov is serving a life sentence for the 2019 daylight shooting of a Chechen dissident in Berlin.

According to Pevchikh, efforts to free Navalny intensified after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, as it became urgent to get him released from prison. She said a humanitarian exchange of Russian spies for political prisoners was devised, but the lengthy negotiations encountered obstacles before an agreement was reached.

Pevchikh speculated that Putin had Navalny killed upon realizing Western leaders might hand Krasikov over, as he did not want Navalny freed but calculated he could still get Krasikov released through other means in the future.

The claims made in Pevchikh’s video could not be independently verified. Navalny was serving a prison sentence in Russia for fraud charges prior to his reported death in Serbian custody.