Preliminary Talks on Navalny's Swap Raised Before His Death: Official

Negotiations turn tense amid unexpected political developments

by Zain ul Abedin
Preliminary Talks on Navalny's Swap Raised Before His Death: Official
© FRANCE 24 English/Youtube

In a startling revelation that has stirred international attention, an associate of the late Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, disclosed that there were ongoing negotiations for Navalny's release through a prisoner exchange before his untimely death in a Russian penal facility earlier this month.

According to a Western official, discussions regarding a potential swap were indeed in their infancy, highlighting Navalny's involvement in tentative talks between the United States and Germany. These discussions contemplated a complex three-nation exchange that would have also involved Vadim Krasikov, a Russian hitman serving a life sentence in Germany, alongside two Americans wrongfully detained by Russia.

While the notion of Navalny's inclusion in the swap surfaced in these preliminary dialogues, it was reported that no formal proposal was ever extended to the Russian government. The feasibility of Germany's approval of such a trade and its attractiveness to Moscow remained uncertain.

Furthermore, an official from the United States confirmed to ABC News that the Kremlin was never approached with a proposal for a prisoner exchange involving Navalny. The issue of wrongfully detained Americans in Russia, namely Paul Whelan, a former Marine, and Evan Gershkovich, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, adds another layer of complexity to the narrative.

Both men have been accused of espionage in charges that the United States vehemently denies. Despite the U.S. State Department's efforts to negotiate their release in late 2023, there has been little to no engagement from Moscow on the matter.

Swap Talks Controversy

Maria Pevchikh, a close ally of Navalny, ignited this discourse through her claims on social media, suggesting that negotiations for Navalny's release in exchange for Krasikov and the two American detainees were nearing completion when Navalny met his demise.

Pevchikh accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of opting to proceed with Krasikov's release without Navalny, ultimately leading to Navalny's death - a charge Putin denies. The U.S. State Department, while continuing to work towards the release of Gershkovich and Whelan, has been cautious in its public commentary, mindful of the delicate nature of ongoing diplomatic efforts.

The Department's spokesperson, Matthew Miller, reaffirmed the U.S.' s longstanding call for Navalny's release without delving into the specifics of Pevchikh's allegations. Navalny, a formidable critic of the Kremlin, died on February 16 while serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism, which he and his supporters argue were politically motivated.

The precise cause of his death remains a mystery, yet the United States and other Western nations have squarely placed the blame on Moscow, responding with sanctions against Russian prison officials and related entities. This development not only underscores the complex web of international relations but also highlights the ongoing struggle for human rights and justice in the face of political repression.