According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, US secret services assume that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not directly order the death of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny. This does not relieve Putin of his responsibility, but it deepens the mystery surrounding the death of the dissident who died in a prison camp in February, the newspaper wrote, citing intelligence sources.

Previously, Navalny’s team in exile abroad had claimed, among other things, that Putin had Navalny killed in order to prevent a planned exchange of the prisoner with Russians imprisoned in the West.

The US intelligence community’s assessment does not dispute Putin’s guilt in Navalny’s death, but says he likely did not order it at the time, the newspaper wrote. The CIA, the Office of the US Intelligence Coordinator and the Intelligence Department of the US State Department are of this opinion. Some European intelligence services were informed about the US assessment.

Navalny confidant rejects report as naive

The Russian opposition figure and close Navalny confidante Leonid Volkov, who was attacked and injured in exile in Lithuania in March, rejected the assessment of the US secret services in the “Wall Street Journal” as naive. “The idea that Putin was uninformed and did not approve of Navalny’s killing is ridiculous.”

According to its own statements, the Kremlin considers the newspaper’s report to be empty reading in order to keep the global reading public entertained on Saturday. “I wouldn’t say it’s high quality material,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The Kremlin had repeatedly denied having anything to do with Navalny’s death.

Report: Biden and Scholz talked about prisoner exchange

Nevertheless, Putin had stated that he would not have been against an exchange of Navalny. According to the newspaper report, US President Joe Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed a proposal for a prisoner exchange a week before Navalny’s death. Moscow was particularly interested in freeing a Russian imprisoned in Germany for the murder of a Georgian in Berlin’s Tiergarten.

According to authorities, Navalny died on February 16 in the penal camp with the unofficial name “Arctic Wolf” in the Siberian Arctic region of Yamal. The circumstances of his death are not clear. The politician, who was weakened by a poison attack in 2020 and repeated solitary confinement in the camp, is said to have collapsed during a tour of the icy prison yard and died despite attempts to resuscitate him. According to Navalny’s team, the death certificate mentions “natural” causes. Navalny’s relatives speak of murder.