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Russian General Viktor Zolotov challenges opposition leader Alexei Navalny to duel – but gets carved up on YouTube instead

Navalny mocked Zolotov’s demand for a duel as ‘a gift’, and accused the former bodyguard of Vladimir Putin of corruptly amassing a US$53million family fortune

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2018, 5:51am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2018, 6:21am

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was released after 50 days in jail on Monday, made up for lost time in his feud with the head of Russia’s National Guard.

In response to a bizarre call for a duel made by General Viktor Zolotov while Navalny was behind bars last month, the 42-year-old corruption investigator answered using his favoured weapon, YouTube, where he has an army of 2.2 million followers.

In the sarcastic, 16-minute video published Thursday, Navalny compared Zolotov to a Sacha Baron Cohen parody of a tinpot dictator and alleged Zolotov’s immediate family has amassed a real estate portfolio worth 3.5 billion roubles (US$53 million) using corrupt schemes.

“As for the challenge to a duel, thank you for that more than anything else,” Navalny said, addressing Zolotov directly. “It’s a gift not just to me, but to the entire country, because now you can’t wriggle away” from a live debate on national television.

Navalny uses social media like YouTube and Twitter to reach his audience because he claims to be banned from the state-backed channels that dominate Russia’s airwaves.

His latest act of bravado comes as he seeks to take advantage of President Vladimir Putin’s falling ratings in the wake of an unpopular decision to raise the retirement age. Trust in the president fell to 39 per cent in September, from 48 per cent in June, according to a survey by the Levada Centre.

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Zolotov, who once headed Putin’s personal bodyguard, is a daunting opponent. The general heads a sprawling domestic army of more than 300,000 and threatened to beat the opposition leader to a pulp in a matter of minutes.

The challenge, Zolotov said, was the result of Navalny’s previous allegations against him and his family, which he denied.

The National Guard’s press service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russian opposition members are frequently subject to violence and intimidation. US President Donald Trump said in an interview with 60 Minutes last weekend that Putin “probably” is responsible for assassinations and poisonings.

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Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy premier who helped lead anti-Putin protests, was gunned down within sight of the Kremlin in 2015.