In an intriguing plot twist, a close ally of Alexei Navalny called Maria Pevchikh has claimed that the famed Putin critic was set to be released in a hostage exchange deal shortly before his untimely death in a Siberian prison.


Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny was close to being freed in a prisoner swap at the time of his death, Maria Pevchikh, a Navalny ally, said on Monday, repeating her allegation that President Vladimir Putin had him killed.

Speaking on YouTube, Pevchikh said talks about exchanging Navalny and two unnamed U.S. nationals for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian FSB security service hit man in jail in Germany, were in their final stages at the time of his death.

Navalny, 47, died at an Arctic penal colony on Feb. 16. The Kremlin has denied Russia had any involvement in his death. Navalny’s death certificate stated that he died of natural causes, according to his supporters.

Pevchikh did not name the two U.S. nationals in contention to be swapped along with Navalny. But the United States has said it is trying to return Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine.

“Alexey Navalny could be sitting in this seat right now, right today. That’s not a figure of speech, it could and should have happened,” said Pevchikh.

“Navalny should have been out in the next few days because we got a decision about his exchange.

In early February, Putin was offered to exchange the killer, FSB officer Vadim Krasikov, who’s serving time for a murder in Berlin, for two American citizens and Alexey Navalny.”

Pevchikh said she had confirmation that negotiations for the swap were in their final stages on the evening of Feb. 15.

Navalny, she alleged, had been killed a day later because Putin could not tolerate the thought of him being free.

Here is the full video with English subtitles:


It is interesting that the video suggests the intended prisoner swap would be Navalny and detained WSJ reporter Evan Gerschkovich in exchange for Kremlin-linked hitman Vadim Krasikov, who murdered a prominent former Chechen independence fighter in Berlin in 2021. In Tucker Carlson’s bombshell interview with Putin (which has, incidentally, amassed over 200 million views on Twitter), Carlson makes an appeal for the release of Gerschkovich, to which Putin tellingly replies that he is considering a swap, perhaps in exchange for a “patriot” detained in Berlin—a clear reference to Krasikov.

So what are we to make of this claim regarding Navalny’s prison swap deal? Well, first, we have to take the claim itself with a bit of a grain of salt, though it seems plausible enough. If true, we must also confront the possibility that perhaps Navalny was not murdered by Putin, as has been commonly assumed. After all, why would Putin, right after agreeing to a prisoner swap, kill one of the prisoners in the exchange? It is possible, perhaps, but also possible that Ukraine or some other third party wanting to thwart the swap and generally make Putin look bad at a critical moment could have been responsible for Navalny’s death.

Of course, it is also possible that Navalny was not murdered at all, and that he in fact died of natural causes. In fact, this is the very position now taken by Ukraine’s top spy chief, who recently opined that Navalny perished of a blood clot.

The Daily Mail:

Today, however, Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence service, suggested his death could be down to natural causes.

He told reporters: ‘I may disappoint you, but what we know is that he really died from a blood clot. And this is more or less confirmed. This was not taken from the Internet, but, unfortunately, a natural [death].’