Ally Says Navalny Was Murdered As Prisoner Swap Including Americans Was Finalized
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny addresses demonstrators during a rally to support opposition and independent candidates after authorities refused to register them for September elections to the Moscow City Duma, Moscow, July 20, 2019. (Photo by Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP via Getty Images)
Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP via Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was murdered after negotiations reached final stages on a prisoner swap that would have secured his release, the chair of his Anti-Corruption Foundation said.

Foundation chair Maria Pevchikh said in a video released Monday that she and other Navalny allies worked for two years to negotiate a prisoner swap in which Navalny and two Americans were to be released from Russia. In exchange, Germany would release Vadim Krasikov, a former KGB officer who became leader of the agency after it became the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

“In early February, Putin was offered to swap the FSB killer, Vadim Krasikov, who is serving time for murder in Berlin, for two American citizens and Alexei Navalny. I received confirmation that negotiations were at the final stage on the evening of February 15th. On February 16th, Alexei was killed,” Pevchikh said.

Pevchikh did not say which Americans were supposed to be part of the prisoner swap. Reports have indicated that imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan, two of Russia’s most high-profile American prisoners, were to be included in the swap.

Krasikov is currently serving a life sentence in a Berlin jail for the murder of Zemlikhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen insurgent who is alleged by Moscow to have led an attack against Russia in 2004. Krasikov fatally shot Khangoshvili in 2019 in the middle of a children’s playground at lunchtime.

Pevchikh said that efforts to free Navalny began after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

“After the start of the war, it became obvious that Navalny had to be gotten out of prison at any cost, urgently. We, as his team, could not but work on this, and we did,” she said. “The task initially seemed impossible. Alexei is a Russian citizen, a Russian politician, he is not entitled to any exchange, foreign states are not obliged to protect his rights. But two years ago, a solution was devised that could work. A humanitarian exchange. Russian spies in exchange for political prisoners.”

The effort to free Navalny ran into headwinds dealing with foreign officials and misunderstandings, lengthening a process that should have taken “months” to two years, according to Pevchikh.

Eventually, an agreement was reached, but then Navalny died in the Serbian prison where he was being held. Pevchikh said that Putin had Navalny killed because the Russian dictator did not want to free Navalny, and calculated he could free Krasikov through other means now that Western leaders had shown a willingness to hand the former FSB head back to Russia.


“Putin was clearly told that the only way to get Krasikov is to exchange him for Navalny. ‘Hold on,’ thought Putin. ‘I can’t tolerate Navalny being free. And since they were willing to exchange Krasikov on principle, then I just need to get rid of the bargaining chip. Then offer someone else when the time comes,’” Pevchikh said.

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