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Brawn vs. brains The Russian National Guard director's failed quest to beat up Alexey Navalny: a chronology

Meduza
Viktor Zolotov, head of Russia’s National Guard
Viktor Zolotov, head of Russia’s National Guard
Mikhail Metsel / TASS / Vida Press

In early September, the head of Russia’s National Guard (a former Putin bodyguard named Viktor Zolotov) challenged anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny to a “duel,” promising to “make mincemeat of him.” In jail at the time, Navalny responded only in mid-October, offering to meet Zolotov in a debate, instead of the ring. A day later, Zolotov expressed his disappointment, saying he had “something else” in mind. Meduza reviews the course of events that led us here.

August 23

Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation publishes an investigative report claiming that the National Guard intentionally bought overpriced food supplies from a company owned by a former Interior Ministry official with personal ties to Zolotov.

September 11

Zolotov releases a video (published on the National Guard’s official YouTube channel, no less), criticizing Navalny, and calling him a “puppet from an American test-tube” and an “opposition lapdog.” Zolotov says the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s research is an “offensive, libelous fabrication,” adding that “from time immemorial, people have been called to duels” for such defamation. “I’m simply challenging you to a fight in the ring, on the mat — wherever you like, where I promise to make quick mincemeat of you in just a few minutes,” Zolotov says.

September 24

Navalny, who was in jail when Zolotov issued his challenge, is released and arrested again almost immediately. In court, before being sentenced to another 20 days behind bars, he tells journalists that he will respond to Zolotov once he’s watched the video.

October 18

Finally free, Navalny publishes his response to Zolotov, four days after he finishes serving the 20-day jail sentence, accusing the National Guard director of stupidity, theft, and past ties to the criminal world. “I accept your challenge, and exercise my right to choose the place and weapon: Our duel will take place in the form of a debate, televised on Pervyi Kanal or any other national network,” Navalny says, suggesting that it could also be streamed on YouTube, if the national TV channels don’t want to air it.

October 19

Zolotov refuses to debate Navalny, saying that he challenged Navalny “to something else,” while clarifying that he had in mind only an “athletic competition,” not a bloodbath. “But I will answer him on this issue, and I’ll respond to his allegations against me. Then we’ll decide [the format],” Zolotov says, alluding to a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Corruption Foundation.