A Kremlin critic was in hospital today after being assaulted outside his home – a week after fellow opposition leader Alexei Navalny was taken ill in a suspected poisoning.
Yegor Zhukov, 22, was left with a bloodied and swollen face after an attack by ‘two thugs who disappeared on scooters’ outside his home in Moscow.
Zhukov is a popular blogger and radio host who was hauled to court on extremism charges last year after making videos that criticised Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Germany today demanded that ‘Russia should contribute more’ to investigating the suspected poison plot against Navalny, who remains in a coma at Berlin’s Charite hospital.
Russian opposition activist Yegor Zhukov was badly beaten (left) outside his home in Moscow last night, a week after Alexei Navalny (right) was taken ill in a suspected poisoning
Zhukov’s team posted a picture of his face covered in bruises and gashes on Telegram, saying he was attacked and beaten near his home in Moscow.
Hours before he was attacked, Zhukov said he had been barred from enrolling in a masters degree at the prestigious Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
He said that a university administrator told him the decision had been taken ‘on orders from above’.
Russia’s opposition have complained of a growing number of attacks and punitive legal cases against Kremlin critics in recent months.
Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Commission, said the attack on Zhukov appeared to be part of a ‘a very negative trend on human rights in Russia’.
The Moscow police force said it was seeking to identify and detain Zhukov’s assailants, who his allies said had fled the scene on scooters.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he hoped Zhukov’s attackers would be found and punished.
Zhukov was among more than 1,000 people detained in Moscow in July 2019 in one of the biggest crackdowns on anti-Kremlin demonstrators in recent years.
A Russian court later found him guilty of inciting extremism on his YouTube channel and banned him from using the Internet for two years.
The attack on Zhukov comes just 10 days after Navalny fell ill after boarding a plane in Siberia.
He was initially treated in a local hospital before being flown to Berlin for treatment, where doctors say they have found signs of poisoning.
Navalny’s supporters blame Vladimir Putin (pictured) and the Russian government for the alleged poisoning, but the Kremlin denies this
Medics suspect the anti-corruption campaigner was poisoned with a substance that inhibits the cholinesterase enzyme, a feature of nerve agents.
Navalny’s allies say he may have been poisoned by a cup of tea he drank at Tomsk airport in Siberia, and have pointed the finger at Putin.
But the Russian doctors who first treated Navalny said their tests did not find any toxic substances, and the Kremlin has rejected calls for an investigation.
The hospital said on Friday that there was ‘some improvement’ in Navalny’s condition but the 44-year-old remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator
German foreign minister Heiko Maas said today that ‘we have the expectation that Russia should contribute more to clearing up of the Navalny case than it is doing at the moment’.
Maas said that Europe needed ‘constructive’ relations with Russia for the sake of security, but warned that ‘dark clouds’ were hanging over bilateral ties.
Elsewhere, a lawyer for Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation said bailiffs had seized $460,000 from her bank accounts today.
Lyubov Sobol said the full sum had been debited from her account, leaving her deep in the red.
It comes nearly a year after a court ordered damages from her and Navalny in a case surrounding a company that provides school meals in Moscow.
The firm is linked to businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, nicknamed ‘Putin’s chef’ because he has previously supplied catering services to the Kremlin.
A court last year ordered Navalny, Sobol and the Anti-Corruption Foundation to pay almost 88million rubles ($1.2million) to the firm.
Navalny formally closed the Anti-Corruption Foundation in July in a move to avoid paying its share of the court-ordered penalty.