Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has made a name for himself with a series of slick, snarky YouTube documentaries that blast the powerful men around Russian President Vladimir Putin for abusing power to enrich themselves.
On Tuesday, one of those big men fired off a YouTube clip of his own in response — in which he challenged Navalny to a duel.
“I simply challenge you to a duel — in the ring, on the judo mat, wherever,” Viktor Zolotov, Putin’s imposing chief of the National Guard growled in a seven-minute video. “I promise to make nice, juicy mincemeat of you in just a few minutes.”
Yep, you heard that right: Putin’s ex-bodyguard vs. a Kremlin opposition leader in a ring — or judo mat — in celebrity deathmatch, Moscow edition.
Navalny wasn’t available to answer, either in person or via his own YouTube channel, because he’s already in jail on a 30-day sentence for organizing an unsanctioned protest. Navalny’s latest stint in prison is far from his first, and he called the court’s decision ridiculous and unconstitutional.
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Zolotov, 64, served in Putin’s personal security detail for over a decade before being elevated to run the newly-founded National Guard. He’s widely seen as one of Putin’s most-trusted allies.
His own YouTube debut came in response to Navalny’s investigative report released on August 23, which pointed to evidence of corruption in the National Guard’s meal procurement policies.
But unlike Putin, whose longstanding refusal to utter Navalny’s name in public has become something of a running joke in Russia, Zolotov called his would-be opponent out by name right from the top of his video.
“It is not customary among officers to simply forgive,” Zolotov said, waving a fist at the camera. “From time immemorial, scoundrels have had their faces smashed, and have been called to duels. Mr. Navalny, no one is stopping us from reviving at least some of these wonderful traditions. I mean to have satisfaction.”
Cover image: Russian President Vladimir Putin and National Guard head Viktor Zolotov attend a gala evening dedicated to the Day of Russian National Guard at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 27, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS