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Leonid Volkov

Exiled Navalny ally blames Putin for assault with hammer

Exiled Navalny ally blames Putin for assault with hammer
Leonid Volkov, former Chief of Staff for Alexei Navalny and Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Foundation attends the Sakharov Community event at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 28 September 2022. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

VILNIUS, March 13 (Reuters) - The top aide to late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny blamed the Kremlin on Wednesday after he was an assaulted with a hammer and tear gas outside his home in Vilnius.

In a post on Telegram, Leonid Volkov said he had returned home on Wednesday morning after a night in hospital, suffering from a broken arm and injuries from about 15 hammer blows to the leg.

“This is an obvious, typical criminal ‘hello’ from Putin, from criminal Petersburg”, he wrote.

“We will keep on working and we will not surrender”, Volkov added. “It hard but we’ll handle it… It’s good to know I’m still alive.”

There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the incident.

Earlier, former Navalny spokesperson Kira Yarmysh posted images of 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.

“Volkov has just been attacked outside his house. Someone broke a car window and sprayed tear gas in his eyes, after which the attacker started hitting Leonid with a hammer,” she wrote on social media website X.

Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis called the incident shocking and said the perpetrators must “answer for their crime”.

Lithuania’s police commissioner Renatas Pozela said police were devoting “huge resources” to investigate the assault.

He insisted that the attack did not mean that the European Union and NATO country of 2.8 million people, which borders Russia and Belarus and has become a base for Russian and Belarusian opposition figures, was no longer safe.

“This is a one-time even which we will successfully solve… Our people should not be afraid because of this”, said Pozela.

The U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania, Kara McDonald, said on social media X she was “shocked” by the news of the attack on Volkov.

“His resilience and courage in the face of recent attempts to silence and intimidate him are inspiring. The Navalny team remains an outspoken voice against Kremlin repression and brutality”, she said.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, died last month in an arctic prison. Russian authorities say he died of natural causes; his followers believe he was killed by the authorities, which the Kremlin denies.

In an interview with Reuters hours before Tuesday night’s assault, Volkov said leaders of Navalny’s movement in exile believed they were at risk.

“They know that Putin not only kills people inside Russia, he also kills people outside of Russia”, Volkov told Reuters in the interview. “We live in very dark times”.

(Reporting by Andrius SytasEditing by Stine Jacobsen, Terje Soslvik, Nick Macfie, Peter Graff)

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