Navalny ally attacked with hammer outside his home

By Isaac M March 13, 2024

A long-time ally of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been attacked with a hammer near his home in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Lithuanian police are investigating the assault on 43-year-old Leonid Volkov as it remains unclear who carried it out – and their motive.

A pine forest near Mr Volkov’s house was cordoned off by police, and officers with dogs and flashlights were seen searching the area on Tuesday night.

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The road outside Leonid Volkov's house in Vilnius, Lithuania. Pic: Reuters
The road outside Mr Volkov’s house in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Pic: Reuters

Mr Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said the attacker smashed a window of Mr Volkov’s car, sprayed tear gas into his eyes and started hitting him with a hammer.

She posted an image on social media platform X showing Mr Volkov on an ambulance stretcher.

Ivan Zhdanov, another prominent ally of Mr Navalny, posted images on his Telegram account showing Mr Volkov with a bruise on his forehead, blood coming from a leg wound, and a vehicle with damage to the driver’s door and window.

Mr Volkov’s wife said he had returned home from hospital with a broken arm and was unable to walk.

“The choice between running to your husband who was attacked or not leaving your sleeping children alone is disgusting. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” she wrote on X.

“We will all work even harder. And even angrier.”

‘We will all be killed’

Mr Volkov used to be in charge of Mr Navalny’s regional offices and election campaigns – Mr Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013 and sought to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 2018 presidential election.

He left Russia several years ago under pressure from the authorities.

He and his team launched a project last year called Navalny’s Campaigning Machine with the goal of talking to as many Russians as possible, either by phone or online, and turning them against Mr Putin ahead of the 15-17 March presidential election.

Russian independent news outlet Meduza said it interviewed Mr Volkov several hours before the attack and asked him about the risks Mr Navalny’s aides faced.

“The key risk is that we will all be killed,” it quoted Mr Volkov as saying.

Leonid Volkov. Pic: Reuters
Mr Volkov left Russia several years ago. Pic: Reuters

Lithuania’s foreign affairs minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who also leads Homeland Union, the ruling party, described the assault as “shocking”.

“Perpetrators will have to answer for their crime,” he wrote on X.

A large part of Mr Navalny’s political group, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which includes Mr Volkov, are residing in European Union and NATO member Lithuania after fleeing Russia.

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Navalny: ‘Those who resist face the consequences’

Mr Navalny, 47, was a high-profile and vocal critic of President Putin and had been serving a 19-year prison term when he died in an Arctic penal colony last month.

The 47-year-old had been behind bars since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after recovering in Germany from nerve agent poisoning, which he blamed on the Kremlin.

Western leaders have made clear they hold the Russian regime ultimately responsible for his death.

Putin gives an interview to Russia's state RIA news agency and Rossiya-1 television in Moscow, Russia. Pic: Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via Reauters
Mr Putin gives an interview to Russia’s state RIA news agency and Rossiya-1 television in Moscow, Russia. Pic: Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via Reauters

Putin says Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons

The attack on Mr Volkov comes as Mr Putin said he was ready to use nuclear weapons if there was a threat to his country’s statehood, sovereignty or independence.

In an interview with Russian state television released on Wednesday, he said he hoped the US would avoid any escalation that could trigger a nuclear war, but emphasised Russia’s nuclear forces are ready for it.

Asked if he has considered using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the Russian leader said there had been no need.

He also asserted Moscow would achieve its goals in Ukraine and held the door open for talks, stressing any deal would require firm guarantees from the West.

Discussing Finland’s accession to NATO, Mr Putin appeared to dismiss its importance, but vowed to send troops to the border as the alliance continues to expand.


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