MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close ally and chief of the National Guard on Tuesday challenged Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to a “duel” and threatened to turn him into “steak.”
Wearing his uniform, Viktor Zolotov spouted threats and insults in a video message to Navalny, who last month alleged corruption in the National Guard and is currently in jail for violating anti-protest legislation.
“You, Mr. Navalny, have never faced payback,” Zolotov said, after rubbishing Navalny’s corruption expose as slander. “Nobody has given you a quality kick in the ass. In a way you feel it in your liver.”
“I simply call you to a duel, to the ring, to the tatami, to wherever. And I promise to make a juicy beefsteak out of you in just a few minutes,” he said in the video posted on the National Guard’s official website.
Navalny in late August published a video he addressed to the rank and file employees of the National Guard, the agency tasked with dispersing Russian protests.
Agency leadership, he tells the soldiers, “literally takes food out of your mouth for profit.”
The expose alleges that the agency purchases poor quality food for its soldiers for over-inflated prices.
Navalny is not set to finish his 30-day jail term until late this month. His team however reacted to Zolotov’s message with a mixture of horror and ridicule.
The video has “open, very serious threats,” said Navalny’s former head of campaign staff Leonid Volkov on Twitter, adding that Zolotov “must have forgotten” that Navalny is locked up and can’t reply.
“They can’t even hire good PR people with their stolen billions,” wrote Lyubov Sobol, who works for Navalny’s anti-corruption center. “Six minutes of threats and not a single word to refute facts and evidence in the investigation.”
Previously Navalny had alleged Zolotov himself — a former head of Putin’s security detail who was appointed to the current newly-created post in 2016 — was “very rich” and that his family owned several luxury properties.
Zolotov in his video said that he was “not a poor man” but went on to accuse Navalny of being a “rotten” American agent.
“When you were still using the potty, I had served in the army, was an outstanding worker of Communist labor, worked in industry and then went into business,” Zolotov said.
“And who are you, Navalny, I want to understand what you’re made of,” he said.
“It’s clear you’ve been made in an American test tube… you are tasked with pouring mud over everything… to destabilize the country’s political and economic situation,” he said.
“You have no country, no Fatherland.”
Zolotov added that “if you use offensive or slanderous language against me and members of my family, I promise you that before I step over you and wipe my feet on you, I will host a show for all employees of the Russian National Guard.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov appeared to endorse Zolotov’s message, though he denied that it was approved by Putin.
“Sometimes you can use any measures against blatant slander,” he told journalists, adding that the Kremlin does not see it as a threat of physical violence.