Putin: I'd Just Agreed to Prisoner Swap When Navalny Died

It's the Russian president's first mention of opposition leader since his death
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2024 1:30 AM CDT
In 'Rare' Moment, Putin Says Navalny's Name
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks on a visit to his campaign headquarters after a presidential election in Moscow, early Monday, March 18, 2024.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

On Sunday, the same day preliminary election results in Russia made it clear he'd win the country's presidency again, Vladimir Putin made a reveal regarding the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny. It came during an exchange with an NBC News reporter during an appearance in Moscow after the preliminary results were reported, per the Guardian:

  • The question: "Mr. President, journalist Evan Gershkovich spent this election in prison; Boris Nadezhdin, who opposes your war in Ukraine, was not allowed to stand against you; and Alexei Navalny died in one of your prisons during your campaign. Mr. President, is this what you'd call democracy?"
  • Putin's answer: "Several days before Mr. Navalny perished, I was told by some of my colleagues ... that there is an idea to exchange Mr. Navalny for some people in prison in Western countries. Believe me or not, the person talking to me hardly finished their sentence when I said: 'I agree.' But unfortunately, the thing that happened happened." What happened, of course, was Navalny's death in a Russian Arctic penal colony last month. "I agreed under one condition: we swap him, and he doesn't come back. But such is life," Putin continued.

  • A rare mention: Per NBC, it's "rare" for Putin to say Navalny's name. And, per the Guardian, this is the first time the Russian president has referred to Navalny at all since his death.
  • A theory: Some Navalny supporters have alleged Putin had the opposition leader killed so that a prisoner swap that was reportedly in the works at the time would not take place, and Navalny ally Leonid Volkov said Putin's comment to the reporter could be taken as confirmation he was behind Navalny's death.
  • Another Navalny ally's interpretation: "Putin already knew that Navalny was about to be killed, and that's the only reason he agreed easily [to the swap], so that now he can say: 'Well, you see, it wasn't beneficial for me, I wanted to trade him,'" says an investigative journalist and Navalny ally.
(More Vladimir Putin stories.)

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