Putin says he agreed to swap Alexei Navalny for prisoners held in the West

Putin Agrees to Exchange Alexei Navalny for Western-Held Prisoners

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently expressed his agreement with the concept of exchanging prisoners, including the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, for individuals detained in Western countries. This statement was made in response to inquiries about the state of democracy in Russia, considering the imprisonment of journalist Evan Gershkovich, the barring of Boris Nadezhdin from running against Putin due to his anti-war stance, and Navalny’s death in a Russian prison.

Putin disclosed that the idea of swapping Navalny for prisoners in the West was proposed to him by colleagues just days before Navalny’s untimely death. Upon hearing the suggestion, Putin immediately agreed to the exchange. However, he lamented that the unfortunate demise of Navalny occurred before any action could be taken.

The conversation about the prisoner swap took place as Putin celebrated his electoral victory, securing another six years in power with 88% of the vote. This win comes after a period marked by a severe crackdown on dissent, extending Putin’s rule, which is nearing a quarter of a century.

Navalny’s supporters have accused Putin of orchestrating Navalny’s death to prevent the prisoner exchange, which would have included the release of two Americans. Despite claims of negotiations for such a deal, it was reported that the swap was not imminent at the time of Navalny’s death on February 16, at the age of 47.

Putin mentioned that the proposed exchange had one stipulation: Navalny would not be allowed to return to Russia. This was communicated as Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, chose to remain in Berlin despite being offered a chance to visit her husband in Russia, according to Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov.

Navalny, known for his legal expertise and anti-corruption efforts, spent his final days in a penal colony located above the Arctic Circle. His death came after he felt unwell following a walk, as stated by Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service. Previously, in 2020, Navalny survived an assassination attempt involving a military-grade nerve agent and was treated in Germany. Upon his return to Russia, he was arrested and spent his remaining years in prison based on charges related to extremism.

The Kremlin has faced widespread blame for Navalny’s death. President Joe Biden, in a speech at the White House, expressed no doubt that Putin and his associates were responsible for Navalny’s demise. Following this, Biden announced over 500 sanctions aimed at holding Russia accountable for Navalny’s death and its actions in Ukraine. These sanctions target individuals linked to Navalny’s imprisonment and Russia’s financial and defense sectors, with Biden emphasizing that they would ensure Russia pays a higher price for its international aggression and domestic repression.