HomeTop StoriesAttacked Navalny ally will 'never give up' the fight

Attacked Navalny ally will ‘never give up’ the fight

Alexei Navalny‘s close ally Leonid Volkov has vowed to “never give up” on the fight Vladimir PutinThe ‘ultimate sacrifice’ of the late Russian opposition leader would therefore be ‘not in vain’.

In his first TV interview since a brutal hammer attack in March outside his home in Lithuania, where he lives in exile, Mr Volkov told the BBC on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that the message behind the attack was: “we know where you live , we can kill you. “We’re after you.”

Three people were arrested last month over the incident, which Navalny’s former chief of staff said was carried out on the orders of President Putin’s regime.

He said there was “no replacement” for Mr Navalny, but “everyone” saw his wife Yulia Navalnaya as the new “charismatic” leader of the opposition movement, even though “she never wanted to fulfill this public role”.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the late Alexei Navalny, gestures with her hands and looks to the side as she speaks to the media with microphones in front of her

Yulia Navalnaya is a charismatic new leader of the opposition movement, Volkov says [Reuters]

Volkov said his friend’s death was an “open wound in our hearts.”

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He said: “We have always known that we are fighting a crazy, fascist dictator who does not recognize any red lines.”

He said Putin was “killing thousands of people,” whether they were political opponents at home, in Europe or in Ukraine.

Navalny’s aide warned that there is “no single magic trick” that can oust the Russian regime.

He called on Western allies to send more weapons to Ukraine and not to consider negotiations with Russia, despite recent progress.

He said Putin is “bluffing in a way to portray himself as much stronger than he is, hoping that this will be enough to force Ukraine and its Western allies to negotiate… don’t be bluffed.”

Volkov added that there had to be “military pressure, economic pressure, political pressure, from within, from without” on Putin.

He said, “If there are 50 things we can do, we have to do all 50. If you do 49, that’s not enough because that’s the biggest threat to the world we’ve seen in 80 years.”

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Daily danger

Mr Volkov’s determination is striking. He barely flinches as he describes to me how his car window was shattered by his attackers in March, how they used pepper spray and hammers to rain blows on his legs.

He seems almost surprised that people were concerned about the violent attack on him outside his own home, even though he has lived outside Russia for years for his safety.

There is no question of him abandoning his work for the Navalny Foundation, pushing for tougher sanctions against Putin’s allies, exposing corruption within the regime, seeking to exploit any weakness in the Kremlin and building political support.

Our politicians talk so much about the need to rise up against the Russian leader, while arguing over defense funds and additional weapons to support Ukraine.

But Russian opposition activists live in danger every day.

Alexei Navalny was not the first victim of the political struggle against Vladimir Putin’s repressive regime. He may not be the last.

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Watch the interview with Leonid Volkov with Laura Kuenssberg live on BBC One on Sunday iPlayer from 9am BST on Sunday 19 May

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