Navalny’s team says exchange was close to agreement in days preceding his death

Russian President Vladimir Putin was considering exchanging jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny in the days preceding his death, Navalny’s team announced on Monday.

Maria Pevchikh, head of investigations at Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said in a video that Navalny “was supposed to go free” in February as his team had “reached a decision on his exchange”. Navalny and two unnamed US citizens were to be swapped for Vadim Krasikov, a covert Russian operative serving a life sentence in a German prison for a political assassination.

Pevchikh said she had received confirmation that the negotiations were at the final stage on the evening of 15 February, the day before Navalny’s death was reported. She added that negotiations had started in early February, when Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich went to Putin with the proposal to exchange Navalny.

In an “illogical and absolutely irrational move”, Pevchikh said, Putin had decided to “get rid” of Navalny despite his possible use as a “bargaining chip”.

“Putin has gone mad in his hatred for Navalny. Putin hates him so much that he acts to his own detriment and against his own rational interests,”

Pevchikh said.

Alexey Navalny, one of Russia’s leading opposition politicians, was reported dead by prison authorities on 16 February. His widow Yulia Navalnya has vowed to continue her husband’s work.

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