Exiled Russian opposition figure suffered an attack in Lithuania

Volkov, 43, is one of the most prominent figures in the Russian opposition, formerly serving as Navalny’s chief of staff.

Leonid Volkov, a Russian opposition figure in exile and ally of the late Alexei Navalny, was admitted to a hospital on Tuesday after being attacked outside his home in Lithuania, according to local police as reported by the AFP news agency.

Volkov, 43, is one of the most prominent figures in the Russian opposition, formerly serving as Navalny’s chief of staff and president until 2023 of the anti-corruption foundation founded by the principal opponent of President Vladimir Putin.

“Leonid Volkov has just been attacked outside his house. Someone smashed a car window and sprayed tear gas in his eyes, after which the attacker began hitting Leonid with a hammer,” wrote Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmish, on the social network X.

Navalny’s allies shared photos showing Volkov’s injuries, including a black eye and blood on his leg, which soaked through his pants.

They later shared an image of Volkov being transported on a stretcher to an ambulance.

Lithuanian police spokesperson Ramunas Matonis confirmed to AFP that a Russian citizen was assaulted near his home in the capital, Vilnius, around 10 p.m. local time (20 GMT).

“Many police officers are working at the scene,” Matonis said, adding that the suspects had not been identified and more details about the assault were expected Wednesday morning.

Police confirmed that Volkov had been admitted to a hospital.

The attack comes nearly a month after Navalny’s death in an Arctic prison, which Volkov attributed to Putin, and days before the presidential elections in which a new victory for the Russian president is expected.

“The news of the aggression against Leonid is chilling. The competent authorities are working on it. The perpetrators will have to answer for their crime,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Lithuania, a NATO member, hosts many Russian exiles and has strongly supported Ukraine during the Russian invasion.

Following Navalny’s death, tens of thousands of Russians paid tribute to him despite the risk of arrest. Even in death, the Russian opposition figure continues to challenge the Kremlin through his numerous followers who undermine the official narrative.

Crowds have been flocking to the cemetery in southeast Moscow to leave flowers, candles, or written messages at the grave of the opposition figure, who died under murky circumstances on February 16 in an Arctic prison and was buried last week.

These displays of affection toward Vladimir Putin’s main critic question the Kremlin’s official discourse as an overwhelming majority of Russians support the president’s re-election in the elections on March 17.

Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed that Russia had attempted to assassinate him on more than ten occasions. “They say more than ten, but officials, special services, intelligence say so. To be honest, I don’t pay attention to these numbers. In Ukraine, all our people, the military who are on the front line, risk their lives every day,” he said during an interview for Italian television.

“Civilians, who suffer attacks like in Odessa, are also at risk. I am the president of my country, that’s why I also take risks and it’s clear why. I should be in the same conditions as any Ukrainian,” he added.

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