Former Alexei Navalny aide brutally attacked with hammer, blames ‘Putin’s henchmen’

Click to play video: 'Leonid Volkov: Navalny ally blames Putin for attack'
Leonid Volkov: Navalny ally blames Putin for attack
WATCH: Leonid Volkov, the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Nalvany's former chief of staff, has been attacked outside his home in Lithuania. Crystal Goomansingh explains – Mar 13, 2024

NOTE: The following article contains graphic photos and descriptions. Please read at your own discretion.

Leonid Volkov, the former chief of staff for late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was hospitalized Tuesday after being beaten by an assailant armed with a hammer. Volkov is blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for the attack.

Police said Volkov, 43, had just arrived at his home in Vilnius, Lithuania when an attacker smashed one of his car windows, sprayed tear gas into his eyes and hit him with a hammer. A criminal investigation into the attack is underway.

Photos taken of Volkov immediately after the attack were posted to Telegram by Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

The images show the former chief of staff with bruising on his face and blood running down his leg. Other photos showed broken glass on the ground beside a car with its window smashed and Volkov on a gurney being loaded into an ambulance.

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Photo of Leonid Volkov’s bruised face and an image of him being loaded into an ambulance after he was attacked outside his home in Lithuania on March 12, 2024. Telegram/Ivan Zhdanov

Volkov suffered a broken arm “and for now he cannot walk because of the severe bruising from the hammer blows,” according to The Anti-Corruption Foundation, of which Volkov used to serve as chairman.

Volkov currently lives in exile in Lithuania for safety reasons.

On Wednesday, Volkov released a short video saying the assault won’t discourage him from continuing his political activism, despite one of “Putin’s henchmen” trying to “make a schnitzel out of me.”

The bloodied legs of Leonid Volkov after he was attacked in Lithuania. Telegram/Ivan Zhdanov

“We will work, we will not give up,” Volkov said in the Telegram video, speaking with his arm in a sling. “It was a characteristic bandit greeting from Putin’s henchmen.”

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Volkov also encouraged voters in the upcoming Russian presidential election to participate in “Noon Against Putin.” This planned protest calls on citizens to arrive at the polling stations on the last day of voting, March 17, at 12 p.m. to either vote against Putin or spoil their ballot.

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Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, called the attack on Volkov “shocking.” He wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “Relevant authorities are at work. Perpetrators will have to answer for their crime.”

Lithuania’s president Gitanas Nauseda said there is “no doubt” the attack was planned, and connected the assault on Voldov to a recent string of desecrations of Lithuanian monuments, CNN reports.

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“There is no doubt that such things are planned. Look at the recent increase in desecration of the Lithuanian flag, incidents with monuments,” he said, adding that authorities will “assess, investigate and hopefully find the guilty persons.”

“And I can only say one thing to Putin – nobody is afraid of you here,” Nauseda said.

The attack took place nearly a month after Navalny’s unexplained death in a remote Arctic penal colony. Navalny was Russia’s best-known opposition figure and Putin’s fiercest critic. He had been jailed since January 2021 and was serving a 19-year prison term for crimes of extremism, widely seen as politically motivated charges.

Opposition figures and Western leaders including Justin Trudeau laid the blame on the Kremlin for Navalny’s death — something officials in Moscow vehemently rejected.

Click to play video: 'Navalny aide attacked with hammer, blames ‘Putin’s gangsters’'
Navalny aide attacked with hammer, blames ‘Putin’s gangsters’

Navalny’s funeral in the Russian capital on March 1 drew thousands of supporters, a rare show of defiance in Putin’s Russia amid an unabating and ruthless crackdown on dissent, as Navalny’s widow Yulia vowed to continue her late husband’s work.

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Volkov used to be in charge of Navalny’s regional offices and election campaigns. Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013 and sought to challenge Putin in the 2018 presidential election. Volkov left Russia several years ago under pressure from the authorities.

Russian independent news outlet Meduza said it interviewed Volkov several hours before the attack and he said he was worried for his safety.

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

The attack comes days before Russia’s presidential election on March 15-17 where Putin is expected to win a fifth term.

— with files from the Associated Press

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