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Navalny was close to being freed in prisoner swap

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was close to being freed in a prisoner swap at the time of his death, Maria Pevchikh, a Navalny ally, said today.

Ms Pevchikh has alleged that Russian authorities murdered Navalny, something they deny.

Speaking on YouTube today, Ms Pevchikh said Navalny and two US nationals were in line to be exchanged for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian FSB security service hit man who is serving a life sentence in Germany.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin called allegations that Russian authorities had pressured the mother of Navalny over her son’s funeral absurd, saying President Vladimir Putin had not been involved in decisions on Navalny’s body.

A spokeswoman for Navalny, who suddenly died aged 47 at an Arctic penal colony on 16 February, said on Friday that Russian authorities had given his 69-year-old mother Lyudmila an ultimatum: Agree within three hours to lay him to rest without a public funeral or he would be buried at the prison.

Navalny's mother
Lyudmila Navalnaya accused Russian investigators of trying to blackmail her

Navalny’s mother had complained a day earlier about the difficulty she was having getting her son’s body handed over and had accused Russian investigators of trying to blackmail her over the funeral arrangements.

The late opposition politician’s body was handed over to his mother in the Arctic city of Salekhard on Saturday. The arrangements for his burial have yet to be announced.

Asked if he would comment on the alleged official pressure put on Navalny’s mother, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters today: “I can’t comment in any way because the Kremlin has nothing to do with this, so the Kremlin cannot exert pressure. This is another absurd statement by these [Navalny] supporters.

“They are almost all wanted [by the Russian authorities] and almost all of them are abroad. Their statements should be treated accordingly.”

Asked if appeals made to Mr Putin by Navalny’s mother and Yulia, his wife, had helped speed the body’s hand over, Mr Peskov said that the Russian president had not been involved in the process.

“The head of state does not manage these issues in any way. There are certain services and relevant processes that go in accordance with the established rules for such situations,” he said.

When asked if Mr Putin had had anything to do with the issues around the body’s handover, which Navalny’s supporters said had been suspiciously slow, Mr Peskov said “No”.

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