Putin's bodyguard challenges dissident to "duel"

The Man

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Moscow (CNN) At first glance, it looked like an episode from nineteenth-century Russian novel: A general challenging his opponent to a duel. In reality, it was direct threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin's domestic political opposition.

On Tuesday, Russia's National Guard chief, Viktor Zolotov, released a YouTube video challenging opposition leader Alexei Navalny to a duel, calling the anti-corruption activist a "scoundrel," and threatening to turn him into a "tenderized beefsteak."

The video, nearly seven minutes long, was posted on the official YouTube channel of Russia's National Guard. Zolotov, appearing in uniform and wearing an officer's peaked cap, addressed the activist directly and with barely contained anger in his voice.

"You have made me the subject of insulting, defamatory remarks," Zolotov said. "You know, it is not customary among officers simply to forgive. From time immemorial, scoundrels have had their faces smashed and been called to duels."

Addressing the activist as "Mr. Navalny," Zolotov continued: "No one is stopping us from reviving at least some of these traditions, by which I mean seeking satisfaction. I challenge you to single combat — in the ring, on the judo mat, wherever, and I promise to make juicy, tenderized meat out of you."

The reason for the challenge? In a recent video investigation, Navalny accused the leadership of the National Guard, or Rosgvardia, of being part of a scheme involving buying food for soldiers at inflated prices from a single supplier.

Navalny clearly hit a nerve with that investigation. In his video, Zolotov admitted that there are cases of corruption but said that corrupt individuals are being brought to justice. But Zolotov's YouTube address also made clear his views on Russia's opposition: Navalny, he said, was a product from an "American test-tube" and a "puppet" placed to destabilize the political and economic situation in Russia.

That is the conspiratorial mindset of Russia's leadership in a nutshell. In the official Russian view, routinely amplified in state media, the country's political opposition are fifth-columnists in the pay of some foreign power.

Navalny has been excluded from state media coverage but has gained a wide audience through social media. The protests that he organizes have become a vehicle for expressing discontent with the rule of Putin and government corruption.

Most recently, Navalny organized protests against a widely unpopular proposal to overhaul Russia's pension system. Russian independent monitoring group OVD-Info said Russian police had detained over a thousand people in nationwide protests Sunday. The largest number of detentions occurred in St. Petersburg, where images of the detention of a school-age boy and older pensioners quickly went viral.

Russia's National Guard took the lead in many of the crackdowns on Sunday. Navalny himself sat out the protests: he is currently under administrative arrest for organizing an unsanctioned rally in the capital in January.

Some online commenters noted the irony of challenging someone to a duel while they are in government custody. In a short essay posted on the independent news website Meduza.io, Yakov Gordin, a historian of duelling, said the episode "bears no resemblance to real dueling tradition," as Navalny isn't an officer -- and isn't trained to fight (Zolotov, Putin's former bodyguard, is).

Others rushed to Navalny's defense. Champion swimmer Viktor Soldatov challenged Zolotov to a swimming contest, saying the Rosgvardia chief would be "like a sprat in tomato sauce" in the pool compared to him.

Asked to comment on the video, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he agreed with Zolotov that slanderous statements should be "nipped in the bud" and said the video should not be taken as a physical threat to Navalny.

But there's a chilling subtext to the YouTube challenge. Opponents of Putin often end up in jail, run out of the country, or dead.

Opposition activists have long accused the Kremlin of creating an atmosphere on social media and elsewhere that encourages violence. In 2016, a video appeared on the Instagram account of the pro-Kremlin Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov showing two prominent Russian opposition figures in the cross-hairs of a sniper's gun sights.

The physical threats to the opposition are real. Activist VIadimir Kara-Murza barely recovered from a mysterious poisoning. Boris Nemtsov, one of Russia's most high-profile opposition leaders, was gunned down near the Kremlin in February 2015. Anna Politkovskaya, a crusading investigative journalist, was assassinated on Oct. 7, 2006 -- on Putin's birthday.

Against the background of this history, Zolotov's challenge looks less like a duel, and more like a threat.
A threat disguised as a duel: Putin's ex-bodyguard challenges opposition leader

Well, that historian is not EXACTLY right, not only officers fought in duels in old Russia.

For example, Alexander Pushkin (top) and Mikhail Lermontov (below)

Russia's two greatest poets. Both killed in duels at young age. Lermontov was indeed a military officer. Pushkin - a civilian. Pushkin's opponent, and thus killer, as it happens, was a Frenchman (who was in the service of the Russian Empire; it was complicated back then in Europe...): Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès - Wikipedia You still get a bit of anti-French sentiment when some people talk about his death over there lol

Back then, it was a common, although illegal, way for aristocrats and officers to settle differences


Perhaps the most famous duelist back then would have been Count Fedor Tolstoy (uncle of the "War and Peace" guy), who killed at least a dozen men, by modest estimates, in his many showdowns, and lived to a rip old age


Tolstoy was also, reportedly, the inspiration for the main character in 2016 Russian film "The Duelist"

Albeit, that protagonist, an officer named Yakovlev, was actually some kind of an immortal zombie, brought back from the dead and thus impossible to kill again; in Tolstoy's time, some who had seen his duels also thought he must have been assisted by some kind of supernatural forces haha

Today, this has been kind of reemerging in Russia, in a way. It is becoming fashionable for men to challenge other men to honorable combat to resolve slights and such.

Probably the best known such case, so far, was last year, when Roman Chetin (left), a journalist and sportsman from the city of Perm, challenged Alexander Orlov, a Moscow man, who had earlier got drunk and physically assaulted a young fellow journalist who was reporting from some military holiday celebration in Gorky Park


Chetin stepped up to defend the honor of his whole profession, and fought well, I dare say :D

It was a very popular match. Russians actually seem to like such amateur fights more than professional boxing or MMA. More real emotion and such in it, I guess.

In the end, unfortunately for Chetin, Orlov ended up winning the fight



However... For some like Zolotov, who is ex-KGB like Putin, to be throwing around such challenges, especially at a man who is sitting in prison right now... is pathetic, at best...
 
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Southern Dad

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Duels certainly have their place in history. In the US, we have the infamous duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
 
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The Man

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Duels certainly have their place in history. In the US, we have the infamous duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
Was it legal, back then? In Russia, it was illegal since, I believe, at least Peter the Great, who thought it was detrimental to military discipline and such. Punishment could be as severe as lifelong exile to Siberia :D
 

The Man

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A Russian lawmaker has submitted a draft bill codifying duels a day after President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard challenged opposition leader Alexei Navalny to revive the practice.

Viktor Zolotov, who heads Russia’s National Guard, promised to pound Navalny “into a juicy steak” on Tuesday as punishment for his video investigations into government corruption. The angry video address sparked debates on whether Zolotov’s challenge should be taken seriously or treated as a joke.

Some 24 hours later, a draft bill spelling out rules on how to deal with insults appeared in the State Duma’s legal database. The so-called “Code on Dueling” limits handgun, sword and epee combat strictly to state officials.

“An inferior person can only violate [the official’s] right but not offend him,” the draft bill reads. “Thus, a duel as revenge for an insult is possible and permissible only between those of equal seniority.”

If a woman insults a subject, the draft bill says an offended person can challenge her “natural protector” to combat.

“An insult directed at a woman doesn’t concern her, but falls directly on her natural protector, who becomes the offended person,” the draft bill reads.

An explanatory note to the draft bill acknowledges that libel laws govern personal smears. “Nonetheless, there’s been a trend among state and municipal officials to challenge citizens who express views that differ from official points of view to duels,” it says.

The Tjournal.com news website notes that the bill, authored by deputy Sergei Ivanov from the nationalist LDPR party, has been copied “almost in its entirety” from a 1912 publication.

The draft bill’s fate is unclear. No date has been chosen for its first hearing in the lower house of parliament.
Russian Deputy Submits Bill to Regulate Duels

WTF... Russia has become so weird, these days...
 
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Was it legal, back then? In Russia, it was illegal since, I believe, at least Peter the Great, who thought it was detrimental to military discipline and such. Punishment could be as severe as lifelong exile to Siberia :D
That's actually pretty early. Most of Western Europe only outlawed duels in the late 19th or early 20th century (after they'd gone out of fashion). Not sure about the US - my exhaustive 2 minute Google search didn't answer the question, but it did uncover a proposed constitutional amendment in 1838 that would have banned people who took part in duels from running for office. This was apparently inspired by a duel between two congressmen, but the amendment was not successful.
 
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The Man

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That's actually pretty early. Most of Western Europe only outlawed duels in the late 19th or early 20th century (after they'd gone out of fashion). Not sure about the US - my exhaustive 2 minute Google search didn't answer the question, but it did uncover a proposed constitutional amendment in 1838 that would have banned people who took part in duels from running for office. This was apparently inspired by a duel between two congressmen, but the amendment was not successful.
In France, apparently, women dueled TOPLESS with rapiers
:D

Now that would probably do great on pay per view TV today... lol
 

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Chairman of the State Duma’s Statehood and Constitutional Legislation Committee, Pavel Krasheninnikov, appreciated the initiative’s humor, but at the same time recalled, just in case, that "as it is known, dueling was outlawed by the Russian Emperor."

"Today it is construed as attempted murder if nobody was killed. In the event of a fatal outcome this would then be murder," he said in reply to journalists’ questions. "My hat’s off to Sergey Ivanov’s creative thinking. His duel code is really cool."

Earlier, a number of mass media outlets cited the findings of the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s investigation that claimed that food supplies for Rosgvardiya were purchased at unduly high prices. In a retaliatory video message uploaded to YouTube, Zolotov challenged Navalny to a duel and promised to make "succulent mincemeat" of him.

This is not the first case Ivanov has come up with unique initiatives in the lower house of parliament. On April 1, 2013, he proposed a bill On the Protection of Citizens from the Effects of Using Garlic. He explained that in this way he sought to have a good laugh. In particular, he said his purpose was to show one and all that the State Duma was too fond of voting for "draconian" bills against its own citizens.
En Garde! MP proposes duel code in wake of National Guard chief's challenge to Navalny

lol
 

Southern Dad

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Was it legal, back then? In Russia, it was illegal since, I believe, at least Peter the Great, who thought it was detrimental to military discipline and such. Punishment could be as severe as lifelong exile to Siberia :D
Actually it wasn’t legal. This is why the duel was on an island. Also why Vice President Aaron Burr fled.


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