Advertisement

Russia blamed after Navalny’s former chief of staff attacked with hammer in Lithuania

Alexey Navalny’s chief of staff was attacked in Lithuania Tuesday, the Kremlin critic’s team said, as Lithuania’s intelligence agency pinned the blame on Russia as the “likely” force behind the assault.

“Leonid 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,” Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said in a social media post.

Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), said that Volkov was attacked “near the house” in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius and “they hit his legs with a hammer and hit his arms.”

Images shared by Zhdanov showed Volkov with a swollen face and a bloodied leg. Shattered glass and blood are seen next to a car in another picture. Volkov has since been taken to hospital, Zhdanov said in a social media post.

He added that “it is obvious that after the murder of Navalny, they will now fully go after those who left the Russian Federation.” CNN is unable to independently verify Zhdanov’s claims.

Lithuania’s intelligence agency announced Wednesday that it believes the attack on Volkov was likely “Russian organized.”

Leonid Volkov's injuries are seen after he was attacked with a hammer outside his home. - N/A/Ivan Zhdanov/Telegram
Leonid Volkov's injuries are seen after he was attacked with a hammer outside his home. - N/A/Ivan Zhdanov/Telegram

“The attack against a FBK member Leonid VOLKOV, carried out on 12 March 2024 in Vilnius, is likely an operation organized and implemented by Russia. The aim of the operation was likely to curb Russian opposition activities related to the upcoming undemocratic Russian presidential elections,” the intelligence agency said in a statement.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said there is “no doubt” the attack was “planned.”

“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, referring to a string of desecrations of Lithuanian national flags carried out last week.

Authorities in the Baltic country will “assess, investigate and hopefully find the guilty persons,” Gitanas said before going on to make a direct address to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

“And I can only say one thing to Putin - nobody is afraid of you here.”

The attack comes days before Russia’s presidential election, seen as a constitutional box-ticking exercise where President Vladimir Putin is all but certain to win a fifth term.

Volkov, who had served as chairman of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation until 2023, dismissed the elections in February as a “circus,” saying on social media they were meant to signal Putin’s overwhelming mass support.

“You need to understand what the March ‘elections’ mean for Putin. They are a propaganda effort to spread hopelessness” among the electorate, Volkov said.

Leonid Volkov's injuries after he was attacked with a hammer outside his home. - N/A/Ivan Zhdanov/elegram
Leonid Volkov's injuries after he was attacked with a hammer outside his home. - N/A/Ivan Zhdanov/elegram

The opposition figure has lived outside Russia for several years due to safety reasons. He faces multiple politically motivated charges in Russia.

Navalny, who was the most prominent anti-Putin voice in Russia, died last month in a Russian prison, sparking condemnation from world leaders and accusations from his aides that he had been murdered. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in his death.

Navalny’s team and numerous other Russian activists have fled the country in recent years as Moscow’s increasingly repressive regime cracked down on any opposition. In 2021, a Moscow court said the Anti-Corruption Foundation was an “extremist” group in a ruling that was widely condemned by the international community.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

CNN’s Zahra Ullah contributed to this report.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com