Watch CBS News

Ally of late Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny attacked in Lithuania

Associates of the late Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny reported Tuesday night that the politician's close ally and top strategist, Leonid Volkov, was attacked near his home in Lithuania's capital.

Navalny's spokesman Kira Yarmysh said in a social media post that an assailant smashed a window of Volkov's car, sprayed tear gas into his eyes and started hitting him with a hammer. Police and an ambulance were on the way, Yarmysh said.

Lithuanian police spokesperson Ramunas Matonis confirmed to Agence France-Presse that a Russian citizen was assaulted near his home in the capital Vilnius at around 10 p.m. local time.

"A lot of police are working at the scene," Matonis told AFP.

No suspect has not been identified and more details about the assault are expected on Wednesday morning, Matonis added.

Matonis confirmed that the victim was admitted to a hospital.

Leonid Volkov
Leonid Volkov, the chief political strategist of the late Russian leader Alexei Navalny, during a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, in 2021.  Jean-Francois Badias / AP

The attack took place nearly a month after Navalny's unexplained death in a remote Arctic penal colony. Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critic, was serving a 19-year prison term there on the charges of extremism widely seen as politically motivated.

Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Russia's best-known opposition politician, had been jailed since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow to face certain arrest after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. His Foundation for Fighting Corruption and a network of regional offices were designated as "extremist organizations" by the Russian government that same year.

His death, reported by penitentiary officials on Feb. 16, sent shockwaves around the globe, with opposition figures and Western leaders laying the blame on the Kremlin —something officials in Moscow vehemently rejected.

The politician's funeral in Moscow on March 1 drew thousands of supporters, a rare show of defiance in Putin's Russia amid a ruthless crackdown on dissent. Those willing to pay tribute to Navalny, 47, kept streaming to his grave in southeastern Moscow for days after the ceremony. Navalny's widow Yulia has vowed to continue her late husband's work.

Volkov used to be in charge of Navalny's regional offices and election campaigns; Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013 and sought to challenge Putin in the 2018 presidential election. Volkov left Russia several years ago under pressure from the authorities.

Last year, Volkov and his team launched a project called Navalny's Campaigning Machine, with the goal of talking to as many Russians as possible, either by phone or online, and turning them against Putin ahead of the March 15-17 presidential election.

Not long before his death, Navalny had urged supporters to flock to the polls at noon before the final day of voting to demonstrate their discontent with the Kremlin. His allies have been actively promoting the strategy, dubbed "Noon Against Putin," in recent weeks.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.