Was Navalny Killed as Prisoner Swap was Imminent?

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

Politico is reporting on a bombshell YouTube video released today by Alexei Navalny's team that shows Navalny was killed on the eve of a prisoner swap. His close ally, Maria Pevchikh, said that a prisoner swap was imminent when Navalny was killed. Pevchikh blamed Vladimir Putin.


In the video, Pevchikh explains that there were months of lobbying for a prisoner swap that included Navalny. A plan was approved last spring. Two Americans were part of the deal.

“Navalny was supposed to be free in the coming days because we had achieved a decision on his exchange,” she said. Pevchikh added that Russian billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich had acted as a personal liaison between Western officials and Putin in brokering the deal. POLITICO has not been able to independently verify Pevchikh’s claims.

Pevchikh said the deal included Vadim Krasikov, an FSB agent jailed in Germany for murdering a former Chechen commander in 2019, and “two American citizens.”

Pevchikh added she had received confirmation late on Feb. 15 that such a swap was going to take place but believed Putin then changed his mind.

She said it didn't make sense for Putin to have a last-minute change of mind but it shows his true nature and that he was obsessed with Navalny's opposition to him. As late as February 15, she received confirmation of the prison swap. He was reported dead on February 16.

“Since they are willing to exchange Krasikov on principle then I just need to get rid of the bargaining chip [Navalny,],” Pevchikh surmised Putin’s thinking. “Then offer someone else when the time comes.”

“It’s absolutely illogical, irrational, it’s the behavior of a mad mafioso. But the point is that Putin has gone mad with hatred for Navalny,” she said.

in the video, Pevchikh did not identify the two U.S. citizens included in the swap. It was described as a humanitarian swap because Navalny was a Russian citizen being swapped by his home country. The two Americans were most likely to be Paul Whelan and WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich. Both men are in prison on trumped-up espionage charges. 


Whelan has been mentioned in previous prison swaps but so far has remained in prison. During Tucker Carlson's interview with Putin earlier this month, Putin talked about being open to releasing Gershkovich in a prisoner swap. 

The State Department has indicated in recent weeks that a prisoner swap was in negotiations and that Whelan and Gershkovich were likely involved. It is not clear at this point if this was the deal that included Navalny. 

Putin prefers to operate in secrecy and prisoner swaps are no exception. Pevchikh said Putin couldn’t “tolerate Navalny being free” and on the eve of the prisoner swap, it looks like Putin's hatred of Navalny overcame him to the point of stopping the swap with the murder of Navalny. How horrible for his family. The unexpected death was bad enough but to learn that their loved one was on the verge of being released must be a very bitter pill to swallow. It adds insult to injury. 

This is the video. She speaks in Russian but there are subtitles. 

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