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Leonid Volkov: 2 held in Poland over attack on Navalny aide

April 19, 2024

The Kremlin critic was injured by hammer blows last month in Lithuania, where he lives in exile. Vilnius believes Russia's secret service was behind the attack.

Leonid Volkov, Berater von Alexej Nawalny
Image: Jean-Francois Badias/AP/picture alliance

Two people have been arrested in Poland on suspicion of attacking an exiled top aide to the late Russian opposition leader  Alexei Navalny, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told reporters on Friday.

Leonid Volkov suffered injuries from hammer blows in the attack last month in Vilnius, Lithuania's capital, which the country's counterintelligence blamed on Russia's spy agency.

What the Lithuanian president said about the arrests

"Two people suspected of having attacked the Russian opposition leader Leonid Volkov are detained in Poland," Nauseda told reporters.

He did not identify the suspects but said they would be transferred to Lithuania.

"I thank Poland for a really good job. I discussed this with Polish President Andrzej Duda," he said. "I also want to thank our criminal intelligence (organization), which undertook the initial, the most important groundwork."

There was initially no announcement from the Polish authorities regarding the arrests. The Kremlin also declined to comment on the case.

Volkov thanked Lithuanian police on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, for working "energetically and persistently" over the past month on this case.

"I am very glad that this work has been effective," he posted. "Well, we'll find out the details soon. Can't wait to find out!"

What happened to Leonid Volkov?

Volkov was attacked on March 12 outside his home in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, where he lives in exile.

The attacker smashed one of his car's windows, sprayed tear gas into his eyes and repeatedly hit him with a hammer, police said at the time.

The 43-year-old was briefly admitted to hospital with a broken arm after the attack, which happened almost a month after Navalny's death.

Volkov accused Russian President Vladimir Putin's "henchmen" of responsibility for the attack and vowed to keep up his opposition work.

A police car stands at the scene where Leonid Volkov, a close ally of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was attacked outside his home in Vilnius, Lithuania, on March 12, 2024
Volkov received a hammerblow in the attack in Vilnius, Lithuania in MarchImage: Petras Malukas/AFP

What were Volkov's links to Navalny?

Volkov was in charge of Navalny's regional offices and helped Russia's best-known opposition figure with his election campaigns.

He ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013 and sought to challenge Putin in the 2018 presidential election.

Under pressure from the authorities, Volkov left Russia several years ago.

After surviving a Novichok poisoning, Navalny returned to Russia and was jailed in January 2021.

He was serving a 19-year prison term in a remote Arctic penal colony on the charges of extremism widely seen as politically motivated.

Navalny, Putin's most prominent critic, died in unexplained circumstances in jail in February.

Russian authorities say he died of natural causes. Navalny's followers believe he was killed by the authorities, which the Kremlin denies.

In a separate incident, Polish and Ukrainian prosecutors said Thursday they had detained a man in Poland suspected of planning an attack on Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Protesting Putin: The Russian opposition in exile

mm/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)