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Navalny's friend to Dagbladet: – Of course they hate us

Navalny's friend to Dagbladet: – Of course they hate us

Vilnius, Lithuania (Dagbladet): – If Putin's circle of power hates us? If they would rather see us dead? Yes, of course.

Dagbladet meets with Vladimir Milov — Alexei Navalny's supporter, economic advisor and friend for 16 years — at a café in Vilnius, Lithuania on Thursday afternoon.

Milov was a deputy minister in Vladimir Putin's first government, and was a key part of the Russian opposition for a number of years. Like most of those close to Alexei Navalny, he is now working from exile in Vilnius.

Eight years in prison

From here, last November, he could pursue his own trial, which ended with him being sentenced to eight years in prison in Russia.

The reason: a three-hour anti-war broadcast on Alexei Navalny's YouTube network, in which he spoke about war crimes in Ukraine.

– There is a constant stream of threats against us on Russian propaganda television. We have also received threats sent directly to us. We also hear from our sources in Moscow's power circles that they are very dissatisfied with what we are doing, says Vladimir Milov.

-Are you personally in danger here?

– Yes.

On Tuesday evening, his friend and colleague, Navalny's former chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, was attacked with a hammer at his home in the same city.

Dagbladet newspaper was able to report on Wednesday that there was a large police presence outside Volkov's home.

Vilnius: Navalny's former chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, was attacked outside his home in Lithuania on the night of March 13. Reporter: Ivar Ostiebo. Photos/Video: NTB/AP.
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Pointing to Russia

Both Navalny's movement and Lithuanian counterintelligence believe Russia is behind it.

At 14:00 Norwegian time on Thursday, Darius Junisskis, head of the Lithuanian Ministry of Security, stated that they believed the attack may have been carried out by someone recruited by Russian intelligence.

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– He was attacked before the Russian presidential elections to intimidate the opposition from taking action regarding the elections, says Junskis during a press conference, according to Reuters.

Attack: Opposition politician and Navalny's chief of staff Leonid Volkov was attacked outside his home in Vilnius on Tuesday. Lithuanian intelligence believes that the attack was planned by Russian security services. Photo: Ivar Benjamin Ostebo / Dagbladet
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Now Iouniskis proposes strengthening security around the Russian opposition.

– I am one of the targets. Next time it could be me. You can never be 100% safe, and there are no guarantees of safety. But this is the reality we have to live in, says Milov.

“Bandit salute”

Navalny's supporters described the attack as a “typical greeting from Putin.”

-Can you explain what you mean by that?

Chechen critic Kadyrov, Tumso Abdurakhmanov, was attacked in the same way – with a hammer, in his home while he was sleeping. Milov says the hammer is also a signature of the Wagner Collection.

In 2022, Wagner's president, Yevgeny Prigozhin, sent a hammer covered in fake blood to the European Parliament in retaliation for the group's designation as a terrorist organization.

What makes things difficult for Putin here is the difficulty of transporting weapons, as Milov says, and continues:

– This is why you choose an instrument of violence that is legal, but also effective in causing harm. I believe that the perpetrator wanted to permanently disable Leonid Volkov.


It tells about the shock that struck Navalny's supporters when news of his death came.

– Of course it's terrible. But we can't hang our heads. Milov says the light still shines from him, from his smile, openness and sense of humour.

He describes how he saw Navalny laugh and smile when faced with difficult and critical questions during public meetings in Russia.

Even in the final video, taken by Navalny the day before his death in the horrific Yamal-Nenets prison camp in Russia's Artkes, he was smiling and laughing.

-We discuss the matter a lot between us now. He had this unique dark sense of humor. But it is black humor that provides motivation in difficult times. If he could, Milov says, he would joke and tell jokes about his death.