. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gorbachev's Assailant Says Slap Was Payback

An ex-soldier who punched former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a Russian presidential challenger, on the campaign trail was venting years of pent-up anger over reforms, Itar-Tass said Thursday.

"I wanted to slap this man in the face for what he has done to the country," Mikhail Malyukov, the 29-year-old unemployed assailant, told investigators.

Gorbachev, who presided over the perestroika reforms that culminated in the breakup of the Soviet Union and his own demise in 1991, was struck on the back of the head Wednesday as he walked into a hall in the Siberian city of Omsk.

Malyukov jumped out of the crowd and lunged at Gorbachev, catching security guards unawares in what Itar-Tass described as "an act of hooliganism." He was quickly arrested after the incident.

Gorbachev, 65, told reporters the attacker had been carrying a knife. He issued a statement claiming he had been the victim of an assassination attempt.

"An attack was made on me that can be classified as an attempt on the life of a candidate for the post of president of the Russian Federation," the statement said.

Itar-Tass said Malyukov was being charged under Article 206, Part 2 of Russia's Criminal Code -- hooliganism in a public place.

The agency quoted General Yevgeny Storozhenko, head of the Omsk regional Interior Ministry office, as saying Malyukov had been discharged from the army for health reasons. He had no stable employment and sponged off his parents for financial support.

"Malyukov's behavior gives rise to the suspicion that he is not quite healthy, that he must undergo psychiatric checks," Itar-Tass said.

In Omsk, Gorbachev told reporters that the attack was an incident that called for "serious political assessment."

"I appeal to President Boris Yeltsin and urge him to use his authority to ensure that the presidential campaign in the country takes place in normal conditions," he said.

Gorbachev, with less than a 1 percent rating in opinion polls for the June 16 election, said in his statement that the assassination attempt disrupted his meeting with "a numerous audience of voters."

Yeltsin and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov top the polls by a wide margin.

But Commersant Daily business newspaper said Gorbachev remained determined to run despite his hostile reception in Omsk.

"No bastards are going to force me to give up the fight for the presidency," the newspaper quoted him as saying.