One of the most powerful men in Russia’s fearsome security apparatus posted a video on YouTube Tuesday challenging a top critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin to a “duel.”
The man appeared deadly serious. But a lot of Russians think it’s simply hilarious.
Russians brutally mocked the official, National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov, who’d posted a seven-minute YouTube video in which he stares straight into the camera while threatening to make “nice, juicy mincemeat” out of the rabble-rousing Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
“I’ll arrange a show for the entire National Guard,” Zolotov growled. “You’re a little dog of the opposition who fancies himself an elephant…. No one’s ever kicked your ass like they should.”
“Guys, this morning I didn’t have time for breakfast, and I blame Viktor Zolotov,” one Twitter user said in a selfie-video posted Wednesday. “I challenge you to a pillow fight!”
Some of the humor skewed dark and political.
One user posted a picture of Russian riot policeman beating a defenseless protestor in the street, with a speech-bubble that says: “I challenge you to a duel! Defend yourself (not).”
Another took note of the fact that Navalny could not immediately respond, by accepting the duel or otherwise, because he’s currently in jail on a 30-day sentence for taking part in an unsanctioned protest.
Viktor Soltadov, who claimed the World Swimming Championships bronze medal in 2015, challenged Zolotov to a “swimming duel” on Facebook.
A Navalny supporter named Alyona Medvedeva spun around to the camera and waggled her eyebrows up and down, saying: “Viktor Zolotov, I challenge you to eyebrow war.”
Someone even put them in a video game:
Zolotov’s bizarre offer — perhaps the most high-profile moment ever for the typically low-profile security official — came in response to an investigation Navalny published in August that presented evidence of corruption in the National Guard’s procurement practices.
Zolotov, apparently, took the allegations as a personal insult, and jumped on YouTube with a public offer to duke it out.
Zolotov’s clip struck many as absurd. But it also sparked some real-world action in the Russian parliament.
The day after Zolotov’s video dropped, a Russian lawmaker named Sergey Ivanov from Russia’s far-right LDPR party submitted an apparently tongue-in-cheek draft bill to codify procedures for dueling.
Over 55 bizarre pages, the bill limits dueling to government officials of equal rank who want to use a good old-fashioned bloodsport to settle an insult, and lays out dozens of detailed rules of combat.
“The individual who is insulted has the right to select the type of weapon used in the duel: swords, pistols or sabers,” the draft law says.
The bill goes on to say things like: “Having received an offense, the individual who has been insulted must say to his opponent: ‘Gracious Sovereign, I will send you my seconds.’ If the opponents are unknown to each other, they will exchange cards and addresses.”
That bill, too, appears to have been an elaborate joke. Russian website tjournal.ru noted that the text of the bill appears to have been lifted word for word from a 1912 book called “The Code of Dueling.”
Cover image: President Vladimir Putin's former bodyguard and chief of the National Guard has challenged opposition leader Alexei Navalny to a duel. (Rosguardia Press Service via AP)