Meduza reports that Maria Pevchikh, the chairwoman of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF), formerly headed by Alexei Navalny, said on February 26 that Alexey Navalny was supposed to be released through a prisoner exchange.

The Russian opposition politician was reportedly set to be swapped for Vadim Krasikov, an ex-FSB officer who is serving prison time in Germany for the assassination of the former Chechen field commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in 2019.  Not much is known about Krasikov — but journalists have linked him to the FSB’s Vympel special forces unit and to two other murders (one in Moscow and one in Russia’s Karelia region).

In December 2021, a Berlin court sentenced Krasikov to life in prison, having found him guilty of murdering Khangoshvili.  The court also concluded that the Russian authorities ordered Krasikov to carry out the assassination.

Ukrainska Pravda reported on February 26 that Pevchikh noted that in early February, Russian President Vladimir Putin received a proposal to swap FSB officer Vadim Krasikov for two US citizens imprisoned in Russia and Alexei Navalny.

Pevchikh reportedly explained that since the beginning of the war, Navalny's associates had been working on the possibility of a "humanitarian swap" of the opposition politician with the help of investigator Khristo Grozev.

She said that it took 2 years to implement this plan. "Last spring, our plan was approved. Everything could have happened a year ago. But it didn't. It was all Chinese whispers," said Pevchikh.

Navalny's associate also added that the proposal to swap Navalny had been brought to Vladimir Putin by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich as an informal negotiator.

"I'm telling you why Navalny was killed now. Putin was given a clear message: the only way to get Krasikov was to exchange him for Navalny. Oh, I see, Putin figured! [Putin thought] 'I will not tolerate Navalny at large' And since they [the West] were ready to swap Krasikov, it was simply a matter of getting rid of the subject of the bargain [Navalny]. And then, should the opportunity arise, to swap him for someone else. This is completely illogical, completely irrational, the behavior of a crazy mobster. The bottom line is that Putin has gone mad with his hatred for Navalny," the ACF head stressed.

Meanwhile, Ukrainska Pravda says Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence, revealed on February 25 that Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny had died of natural causes, specifically a blood clot.