Navalny Was Days from Freedom, According to Ally

( – According to a close ally of Alexei Navalny, the Russian politician found dead in his cell, talks to free him in a prisoner swap were in their final stages shortly before his death, which the ally blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny died at the age of 47 on February 16th while imprisoned at the Arctic Circle corrective colony in Yamalia, according to Russian prison officials. He was a fairly popular opposition leader, activist, and lawyer, and his death sparked international protests as well as accusations by Western leaders against the Kremlin alleging a connection to his death.

On Monday, February 26th, an ally of Navalny named Maria Pevchikh said she believed the Kremlin had a hand in his death, which was reported as due to natural causes on Navalny’s death certificate. Pevchikh did not provide any proof of these claims. She also said talks were underway to exchange Navalny, along with two U.S. nationals, for a Russian FSB hitman imprisoned in Germany named Vadim Krasikov.

Pevchikh said that the opposition leader would have been sitting next to her if he hadn’t died. She said that a decision about his exchange was made by Putin in early February. One of the prisoners in the exchange was Krasikov, who Pevchikh described as a “killer” and said is “serving time for murder in Berlin.” In an interview with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Putin indicated that he was intent on getting Krasikov released.

Pevchikh is designated by the Russian government as a “foreign agent,” and is accused of being involved in an extremist opposition organization. She claims to have received confirmation that the prisoner swap was in the final stages of negotiations the day before Navalny was found dead, and she believes Putin was behind it because he couldn’t tolerate the idea of freeing him. If true, it doesn’t explain why Putin simply didn’t refuse to include his rival in the swap, which Pevchikh did not explain. Navalny’s comrade also claimed that the idea for the exchange was proposed by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich.

A funeral and burial for Navalny have yet to be announced but are expected to happen in Moscow. A spokesperson for Navalny said they were still searching for a venue to hold a public farewell service.

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