National Security

Putin Critic Beaten in Moscow

Yegor Zhukov is the third prominent opposition voice to face retaliation in recent months

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Staunch Kremlin critic and opposition voice Yegor Zhukov was savagely beaten on the streets of Moscow by unidentified assailants Sunday night, the Washington Post reported.

The thugs approached and attacked Zhukov outside of his apartment in Moscow and escaped by scooter. Zhukov was sent to the hospital following the attack, but was released with no serious brain injury or internal bleeding.

"I have not suffered any property damage, but my face is broken and I feel very bad," Zhukov said to Russian police. "I believe that the attackers attempted to cause serious harm to my health, for this purpose they inflicted multiple blows on my head, including after I fell to the ground."

The 22-year-old YouTube blogger is a prominent libertarian critic of the Putin regime. He was previously arrested in 2019 on charges of organizing a protest against Moscow’s suppression of anti-Kremlin candidates running for city council.

"I don’t know if I will be free, but Russia will definitely be free," he told Russian courts last December in his defense. 

Zhukov is not the first Russian critic of Putin in recent months to face a life-threatening attack. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned this month and denied access by Russian doctors to toxicology care in a German hospital early on during his hospitalization. And popular provincial governor Sergei Furgal was detained by Russian authorities in July on charges of murder dating back to the early 2000s, causing a wave of protests across the Russian Far East.

Some suspect these attacks are all prongs of the same Putin power grab. Recent constitutional changes render Putin a strongman until 2036. 

"I am sure that the order to beat Yegor Zhukov was given by the same people who ordered the poisoning of Navalny," opposition chairman Leonid Gozman said. "They also started a war against Ukraine, intimidate Belarus, and plunder the country."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov downplayed the pattern of attacks on Putin critics. "We don’t know who beat up Zhukov, and we don’t know why, but we do know that officers of law enforcement are conducting inquiries," he said.

The attack on Zhukov came hours after his admittance to a prestigious master’s program at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. After only 90 minutes, the school revoked Zhukov’s admission in what he asserted was a decision "connected to politics."

"No professional political scientist with common sense would call the regime of Vladimir Putin effective and the situation in Russia today desirable," Zhukov told viewers hours before his beating and subsequent hospitalization.