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After overwhelming victory, Putin says he agreed for prisoner exchange involving Navalny before his death

Securing a crushing victory in the Russian Presidential elections, Vladimir Putin said he had agreed to a prisoner swap involving Alexei Navalny before the opposition leader’s sudden death in an Arctic prison in February, CNN reported. Calling Navalny’s death a ‘sad event’, Putin said there were other cases of people in prisons passing away.

In his address at his election headquarters on Sunday, Putin said, “As for Navalny–yes, he passed away. It is always a sad event. And there were other cases when people in prisons passed away. Didn’t this happen in the United States? It did, and not once”, according to CNN.

Putin added that he was told of a proposal to exchange Navalny for prisoners held in Western nations days before the Opposition leader died in prison. “The person who spoke to me had not finished his sentence yet when I said I agree,” the Russian President said.

“But, unfortunately, what happened. There was only one condition that we will exchange him for him not to come back. Let him sit there. Well, such things happen. There’s nothing you can do about it, that’s life,” he added, according to CNN. On February 16, jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died, CNN reported citing the Russian prison service.

The Russian prison service announced that Navalny “felt unwell after a walk” and “almost immediately” lost consciousness. Putin said the elections ‘consolidated’ national unity and that there were “many tasks ahead” for Russia as it continues its course of confrontation with the West.

“No matter how hard anyone tries to frighten us, whoever tries to suppress us, our will, our consciousness, no one has ever managed to have done such a thing in history, and it won’t happen now and it won’t happen in the future. Never,” he said.

Putin won the presidential elections, receiving 87.17 per cent of the votes based on the result of processing 70 per cent of the electoral protocols, Russia-based TASS reported, citing data from the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation.

The Russian Federation candidate Nikolai Kharitonov secured the second spot with 4.1 per cent of the votes while New People Party candidate Vladislav Davankov stood third with 4.8 percent. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) candidate, Leonid Slutsky, received a mere 3.15 per cent of the votes counted. According to preliminary data as of 6 pm (Moscow time) on Sunday, the voter turnout in the presidential elections, which for the first time took place over three days from March 15-17, stood at 74.22 per cent.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, urged Russians earlier to turn out collectively as a show of opposition on Sunday. In the run-up to polling in the country, the Kremlin warned people against unsanctioned gatherings, CNN reported.

On February 19, Yulia accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of killing her husband and vowed to continue his fight for a ‘free Russia’, Al Jazeera reported. “Three days ago, Vladimir Putin killed my husband, Alexei Navalny,” she said in a nine-minute video statement.

“By killing Alexey, Putin killed half of me–half of my heart and half of my soul. But I still have the other half, and it tells me that I have no right to give up. I will continue the work of Alexey Navalny, continue to fight for our country,” she said.

“I want to live in a free Russia. I want to build a free Russia.” She stated, “I urge you to stand next to me…I ask you to share the rage with me. Rage, anger, and hatred towards those who dared to kill our future,” Navalny’s widow added. Navalny’s death sparked outrage, with some Western leaders blaming Putin.

US President Joe Biden said that he was ‘outraged’ by the reported death of the Russian Opposition leader, blaming Putin for his death. British PM Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Union President Ursula von der Leyen also condoled Navalny’s demise while pinning the blame on Moscow. (ANI)

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