Putin breaks silence on Navalny’s death, calls it an “unfortunate incident”

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By journalsofus.com

President Vladimir V. Putin described death of imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny as an “unfortunate incident” and claimed that he had been willing to release him in exchange for Russian prisoners held in the West.

Putin, at a news conference after Russia’s presidential election, said that “some people” had told him before Navalny’s death “that there was an idea to exchange Mr. Navalny for some people held in penitentiaries in countries Westerners.”

“I said, ‘I agree,’” Putin said. “Only on one condition: ‘We will change him, but we will make sure he doesn’t come back, he stays there.'”

And he added: “But this happens. This is life.”

The comments, in response to a question from NBC News, were Putin’s first on Navalny’s death in an Arctic penal colony, and a rare moment, if not the first, in which the Russian president uttered Navalny’s name. Navalny in public.

Navalny’s associates claimed after his death that he had been nearly freed in a prisoner exchange. A Western official told the New York Times at the time “initial discussions” about the possibility of such an exchange were taking place when Russian authorities reported Navalny’s death on February 16.

The Western official said discussions had involved trading Navalny along with two Americans imprisoned in Russia: Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and Paul Whelan, a corporate security executive and former Marine, in exchange for Vadim Krasikov. Currently imprisoned in Germany, Krasikov was convicted of killing a former Chechen separatist fighter in Berlin in 2019.

“This is a sad event,” Putin said of Navalny’s death. “But we have had other cases in which people died in prisons. So what, hasn’t this also happened in the United States?”

While Navalny was alive, Putin’s dislike for him was such who never said his name in public, according to the Kremlin archive of Putin’s interviews and speeches.

Navalny almost died in 2020 after being poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent during a trip to Siberia. Western officials described the poisoning as an assassination attempt by the Russian state.

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