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Could Alexei Navalny be traded for a killer?

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Reuters

According to the Wall Street Journal, Russian dissident Alexei Navalny’s name has come up in possible prisoner-swap scenarios between Russia, Germany, and the US.

At the moment, two US citizens are jailed in Russia on what the US says are bogus charges: US marine veteran Paul Whelan, and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.


Meanwhile, Russia has long sought the extradition of a Russian government hitman, Vadim Krasikov, who was jailed for life in Germany after murdering an alleged Chechen rebel in broad daylight in Berlin in 2019.

Germany has been reluctant to surrender Krasikov, but Russia’s insistence could reportedly open the way for a broader deal that could involve Whelan, Gershkovich, or even Navalny.

If so, it would raise some interesting questions. Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, has been in solitary confinement for nearly two years. He was jailed after returning to Russia following a brief stay in Germany, where he was sent to recover from what was almost certainly an attempt by Russian agents to poison him to death.

Would Navalny even want to be released if it meant going into exile? Not that he’d be asked his opinion on the matter, but Navalny — who is well known in the West but supported only by a small sliver of well-educated Russians at home — staked a lot on the brave act of returning to a Russia that he knew would jail him on arrival.

In a country where being seen as a political pet of the West is often the kiss of death, extraditing Navalny to Europe in a deal for Krasikov could end up being a win-win for Putin.

For more on this, seeour interview with the director of the Oscar-winning documentary Navalny.

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