“Unfortunately whatever happened, happened” – Putin claims he supported Prisoner Swap for Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny days before he mysteriously died


"Unfortunately whatever happened, happened" - Putin claims he supported Prisoner Swap for Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny days before he mysteriously died

Russian President Vladimir Putin has revealed he supported the idea of releasing late opposition leader Alexey Navalny in a prisoner exchange just days before Navalny’s death.

 

Putin said early Monday, March 18, that he supported an idea to release  Navalny, his biggest foe.

In his first comments addressing Navalny’s death, Putin said of his demise: “It happens. There is nothing you can do about it. It’s life.”

 

The remarks were unusual because he repeatedly referenced Navalny by his name for the first time in years and they came at a late-night news conference as results poured in from a presidential election that will extend his rule by another 6 years.

Early results showed him leading with over 87% of the votes in a race with no competition, after years of suppressing the opposition and closing independent media.

Navalny’s allies last month also said that talks with Russian and Western officials about a prisoner swap involving Navalny were underway. The politician’s longtime associate, Maria Pevchikh, said the talks were in their final stages just days before the Kremlin critic’s sudden and unexplained death in an Arctic penal colony.

She accused Putin of “getting rid of” Navalny in order not to exchange him but offered no evidence to back her claims, and they could not be independently confirmed.

Putin said Monday, also without offering any evidence, that several days before Navalny’s death, “certain colleagues, not from the (presidential) administration” told him about “an idea to exchange Navalny for certain people held in penitentiary facilities in Western countries.” He said he supported the idea.

“Believe it or not, but the person talking to me didn’t even finish their sentence when I said: ‘I agree,’” Putin said in response to a question from a journalist about Navalny’s death. He added that his one condition was that Navalny wouldn’t return to Russia.

 

“But unfortunately, whatever happened, happened,” Putin said.

Navalny, 47, Russia’s best-known opposition politician, died last month while serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges that he rejected as politically motivated. His allies, family members and Western officials blamed the death on the Kremlin, accusations it has rejected.

The politician’s associates said officials listed “natural causes” on paperwork Navalny’s mother was shown when she was trying to retrieve his body.

Navalny had been jailed since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow of his own accord after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. He was immediately arrested. The Kremlin has vehemently denied it was behind the poisoning.

 



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