Alexei Navalny's ally Leonid Volkov was attacked with a hammer and tear gas

A long-time ally of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was attacked with a hammer and tear gas while in his car outside his home near the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh he said late Tuesday.

The identity of the attacker and the motive behind the attack on Leonid Volkov were not clear, but it came about a month after Navalny's unexplained death in a remote penal colony in the Arctic. Navalny, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was serving a 19-year prison sentence on extremism charges widely seen as politically motivated.

The attack also comes ahead of elections scheduled for the weekend in which Putin is expected to win his fifth six-year term in a carefully orchestrated vote marked by heavy censorship and an almost complete suppression of dissent.

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Yarmysh and other members of Navalny's anti-corruption foundation, which has an office in Vilnius, posted photos on social media of Volkov, 43, with what appeared to be a bloody leg and bruises on his temple.

He added: “This is a clear political attack, without a doubt.” – said Ivan ZhdanovAnother ally of Navalny.

There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin.

Police in Lithuania launched a criminal investigation. Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania's Foreign Minister, described the attack as “shocking” and said that “the perpetrators will have to answer for their crime.”

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Volkov was in charge of Navalny's election campaigns when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Moscow in 2013 and then tried to challenge Putin in the 2018 Russian presidential election.

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Like many Russian opposition figures, Volkov left Russia several years ago under pressure from the authorities. He resigned from his position as head of Navalny's anti-corruption foundation last year after it emerged that he had called on the European Union to… Drop some sanctions on the Russian oligarchy Imposed in response to the war in Ukraine.

But Volkov still helped lead the foundation's anti-corruption investigations into Russian officials, organized live broadcasts of major events, and played a large role in anti-Putin activity from Lithuania.

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The attack occurred shortly after Volkov arrived at his home near Vilnius.

“We will work and will not give up,” Volkov said in a short video clip posted on Twitter. Telegram on Wednesday.

The video shows Volkov with his arm bandaged and hanging.

He said his arm was broken and his leg was hit 15 times with a hammer.

“It was a typical greeting for Putin's gangsters, from St. Petersburg's bandits,” he said, in an apparent reference to Putin's time as deputy mayor of Russia's second-largest city in the 1990s when it was racked by crime.

The thorn in Putin's side was forced to leave Russia

Putin has criminalized all forms of dissent against him and his war in Ukraine.

Russians risk five to seven years in prison, for example, for “defaming” the military. They could be arrested for making anti-Kremlin statements or for their posts on social media.

The truth is that many of the thorns in Putin's side have either fled from Russia to the United States or to Western Europe. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of young Russians have left Russia since Moscow's massive invasion of Ukraine.

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Alexei Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, now leads the Russian opposition in exile. She and others called on Russians to show up to voting centers en masse this weekend to confuse election officials.

Vladimir Ashurkov, a London-based friend and associate of Navalny, said that in addition to investigations and fundraising for political prisoners, much of the Anti-Corruption Foundation's work focuses on advising activists inside Russia on how to safely put up anti-war posters. Vandalizing military recruitment offices. It coordinates volunteers outside Russia to invite people inside Russia to talk about the war and persuade them to vote.

Ashurkov described this as a “long-term strategy” to defeat Putin.

But some voices inside Russia have questioned how effectively those based abroad are working.

Boris Vishnevsky said: “The exiled opposition cannot influence anything in Russia, where many of them have been tried as ‘extremists’ or ‘terrorists,’ and it bothers me when some of our critics abroad lecture us here on how to fight the bloody regime.” , a Russian opposition politician in St. Petersburg.

Vishnevsky plans to boycott the presidential elections in Russia.

However, Sam Green, professor of Russian politics at King's College London, said the opposition within Russia “has made itself believe that it is powerless against a very authoritarian regime.”

However, he said, “history is full of examples of nonviolent movements” that succeeded in overthrowing unpopular leaders and governments. “The idea that unarmed people cannot bring down militants is wrong.”

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