May 20, 2024

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Associates of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny reported Tuesday night that the politician’s close ally and top strategist was attacked near his home in Lithuania’s capital.

Navalny’s spokesman Kira Yarmysh said the assailant smashed a window of Leonid 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.

The attack took place in Vilnius nearly a month after Navalny’s unexplained death in a remote Arctic penal colony. 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 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 his regional offices were designated as “extremist organizations” by the Russian government that same year.

Volkov used to be in charge of the regional offices. He left Russia 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 has also urged supporters to flock to the polls at noon on Sunday, 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.

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