Leonid Volkov, former right-hand man of Navalny, violently attacked in Lithuania

Leonid Volkov, Russian opponent in exile and former right-hand man of Alexei Navalny, was violently attacked Tuesday evening outside his home in Vilnius, an attack described as “shocking” by the Lithuanian government.

Mr. Volkov said on Wednesday that he had been attacked by a man who hit him “around 15 times” with a blunt object, and suffered in particular a broken arm.

“They literally wanted to turn me into a schnitzel (Viennese schnitzel),” he said on Telegram, congratulating himself on being still “alive.”

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis condemned a “shocking” attack and assured, in a message on the social network

Aged 43, Leonid Volkov is one of the main figures of the Russian opposition and was one of the lieutenants of Alexei Navalny, who died on February 16 at the age of 47 in a penal colony in the Arctic where he was serving a 19-year prison sentence for “extremism”.

A Lithuanian police spokesman, Ramunas Matonis, confirmed to AFP that a Russian citizen was attacked near his home in the capital Vilnius at around 10 p.m. local time.

No suspect has been identified at this stage and more details on this attack must be communicated on Wednesday morning, the spokesperson said.

“We will not give up”

During the night, Mr. Navalny’s former spokesperson, Kira Iarmich, indicated that the opponent had been the subject of a real ambush. He was “attacked outside his house. Someone broke a car window and sprayed tear gas in his eyes before starting to hit Leonid with a hammer.”

Taken to the emergency room, Mr. Volkov was finally able to return home. ” We are at home. Leonid’s arm is broken and he can’t walk yet,” his wife Anna Biryukova wrote on X.

She released photos showing the injuries suffered by the opponent, including a black eye, a red mark on his forehead and blood on one of his legs.

Mr. Volkov judged on Wednesday that the attack of which he was the victim was “typical” of the modus operandi of the henchmen of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but that it would not dissuade him from continuing to campaign for democracy.

“We will work and we will not give up,” he stressed on Telegram.

This attack comes almost a month after the death of Alexeï Navalny in a Russian prison in the Arctic and a few days before the presidential election in Russia, organized from Friday to Sunday, which should mark a new triumph for Vladimir Putin, due to lack of real opponents.

“Putin killed Navalny. And many other people before that,” Leonid Volkov, who was the opponent’s former chief of staff, wrote on social networks on Monday. He also chaired the anti-corruption foundation founded by Mr. Navalny until 2023.

A NATO member country, Lithuania hosts many Russians in exile and has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion.

Risk of being “all killed”

Russian dissidents who have spoken out against the Kremlin often complain of being the target of threats and attacks.

A few hours before his attack on Tuesday, Leonid Volkov had confided to the independent Russian-speaking media Meduza being worried about his safety since the death of Alexeï Navalny.

“The main risk now is that we will all be killed. Why, it’s a pretty obvious thing,” he said according to Meduza.

Leonid Volkov went into exile in 2019 like other allies of Alexei Navalny after the Russian authorities opened a criminal investigation targeting the opponent’s anti-corruption foundation. The multiple trials brought against Mr. Navalny had been widely denounced as a way of punishing him for his opposition to the Russian president.

Since 2021, Moscow has been searching for Leonid Volkov for his role in organizing, jointly with Mr. Navalny, protests against Russian power.

After the death of Vladimir Putin’s number one opponent, about which around forty countries including the United States and those of the European Union requested an international investigation, Leonid Volkov promised that the team of Russian opponent “would not give up” because “good always triumphs over evil”.

He called on Alexeï Navalny’s supporters “not to be discouraged”. “That’s what he expects of us now. What he has dedicated his life to must win. »

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