Putin says Navalny's name for the first time just minutes after announcing his victory in a sham election

Vladimir Putin mentioned the name of the late opposition figure Alexei Navalny for the first time publicly just minutes after announcing his victory in the rigged Russian presidential election.

Speaking at his campaign headquarters hours after polls predicted he would win more than 87 per cent of the vote in the sham election, Putin described Navalny's death as a “sad event” – before claiming he had given the all-clear. To be the opposition figure in a prisoner exchange.

Navalny died last month in a penal colony in the Arctic Circle where he was detained for long periods on trumped-up extremism charges.

Russian authorities insist that he died of natural causes. Navalny's allies say he was killed.

His death came weeks after he urged Russians to vote for anyone but Putin in the presidential election.

Putin said: “As for Mr. Navalny, he has died. “This is always a sad event.”

In a routine case of Putin, he added: “But we have other cases in which people died in prison. Doesn't this ever happen in the United States?

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in a concentration camp, stands in line outside the Russian embassy on the final day of Russia's presidential election, in Berlin.

(Reuters)

He then said his officials had agreed to an offer to release Navalny in a prisoner exchange just days before his death.

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In the wake of his death, Navalny's team claimed that Putin had received their proposal to swap the opposition figure for Vadim Krasikov, an FSB hit man serving a life sentence in a German prison for murder. Opponent of Putin's regime.

The Kremlin denied this happened when asked about it last month.

But Putin said in his speech on Sunday evening that he “immediately agreed” to the prisoner exchange when it was offered to him.

“I immediately said, 'I agree,'” he added. “Unfortunately, it happened. The condition was that he would never come back. It happens. What can you do? That's how life is.”

Putin's comments sparked anger among Navalny's team.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny addresses his supporters during an unauthorized anti-Putin rally on May 5, 2018 in Moscow.

(AFP/Getty)

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's spokeswoman, posted a clip of Putin's speech alongside the caption: “Putin killed Alexei Navalny.”

Maria Pevchikh, head of investigations at Navalny's anti-corruption foundation, wrote on X: “I have no words yet. What cynical and lying scum. Unthinkable.”

Critics of Putin's regime noted that it was interesting that the autocrat chose a victory speech to finally pronounce Navalny's name.

After the opposition figure's death, but before the presidential elections, Kremlin-controlled state media barely reported his death.

Although the election result was never in doubt, the Kremlin did its best to eliminate any possibility of disrupting the three days of voting. Navalny, more than any other opposition figure, was in a better position to incite such unrest, even from solitary confinement.

“Putin was afraid and insecure,” says Oleg Kozlovsky, a Russia researcher at Amnesty International and co-founder of Oporona, a democratic youth movement in Russia. “Apparently the spell that prevented him from pronouncing Alexei Navalny’s name has only now been broken.”

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He called for an international investigation into Navalny's death. “We do not see Russia showing any intention to do this,” he said.

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