ATHENS — Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was attacked in central Athens late on Friday, suffering a broken nose, cuts and bruises.
The assault, which his party DiEM25 described as a “brazen fascist attack,” took place while Varoufakis was dining in the central Exarchia district with party members from all over Europe.
“A small group of thugs stormed the place shouting aggressively, falsely accusing him of signing off on Greece’s bailouts with the troika [the country’s bailout creditors],” DiEM25 said in a statement. “Varoufakis stood up to talk to them, but they immediately responded with violence, savagely beating him while filming the scene.”
Politicians from across the political spectrum swiftly condemned the assault in Varoufakis, the motorbike-riding, leather-jacket-wearing politician who became well-known as the country’s finance minister in 2015.
As part of the left-wing Syriza-led Greek government, Varoufakis battled the so-called troika and Europe-imposed austerity. While the Greek administration eventually capitulated and signed a bailout agreement, Varoufakis quit government and founded a cross-border far-left political movement, DiEM25.
“They were not anarchists, leftists, communists or members of any movement,” Varoufakis said in a tweet early Saturday. “Thugs for hire they were (and looked it), who clumsily invoked the lie that I sold out to the troika. We shall not let them divide us.”
The Exarchia neighborhood has a reputation for being a bastion of self-styled anarchists. Varoufakis was publicly harassed in 2015 while dining in the same district at the height of the financial crisis.
Greek Minister of Citizen Protection Takis Theodorikakos said police would take all measures to identify and arrest the perpetrators of Friday’s attack. He noted that the DiEM25 leader, “at his own initiative, was not accompanied by his personal police detail” while at the restaurant.
Greece has been hit by the biggest mass demonstrations since the eurozone crisis in recent days, as Greeks have taken to the streets almost on a daily basis to protest the country’s deadliest train crash, ramping up pressure on the conservative New Democracy government ahead of coming elections. The wave of public rage follows a train collision on February 28 that killed 57 people and raised profound questions about the management of the rail system.
The train crash has also sparked deeper questions about the functioning of the Greek state and fresh anger against the political system.
“Let us please stay focused: We are mourning the 57 victims of rail privatization. We support the spontaneous youth rallies, the greatest hope that Greece can change. See you at the demonstrations,” Varoufakis tweeted, as another big rally is scheduled for Sunday.