MIGHTY TRENDING

A top Russian officer wanted to duel opposition leader

Legal jockeying is continuing between a top Russian opposition leader and the chief of the country's national guard, disappointing everyone who was hoping they would settle their differences in martial combat after the head of the National Guard really, actually, apparently sincerely challenged the opposition politician to an old-fashioned duel.


Alexei Navalny, the head of the Russia of the Future Party and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, received a duel challenge from the head of the country's national guard. The general in command said he was going to beat this beautiful face into mincemeat.

(MItya Aleshkovskiy, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In Post-Soviet Russia, military defends itself (and, allegedly, its tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains).

If you haven't heard about the quarrel, it all started when Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russia of the Future Party, noticed that the head of the Russian National Guard seemed to be living well beyond his apparent means while the government was paying exorbitant prices for supplies for the armed services.

Navalny thought there was a chance that the general, Viktor Zolotov, who happens to be a former bodyguard of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was taking kickbacks or bribes from contract bidders. Navalny got his nonprofit Anti-Corruption Foundation to look into Zolotov's actions in August 2018. The foundation later alleged that at least $29 million was stolen from the National Guard.

Navalny tends to get arrested anytime he accuses someone too senior of corruption — arrests which the European Human Rights Court view as politically motivated in every case they've reviewed about Navalny — and he was subsequently arrested soon after making the accusations against Zolotov.

(It's important to note that, even assuming that the August 2018 arrest was political, it could've been for other political reasons than the accusations against Zolotov. Navalny is always angering Putin by pointing out corrupt practices, and there are usually four or five political reasons for the Kremlin to jail him at any time.)

In September, while Navalny was in prison, Zolotov challenged his accuser to a duel at any place. While our sources say that trial by combat isn't a thing anymore, even in Russia, admit that you would pay to watch a possibly-corrupt general fight his political opponent. Zolotov reportedly said that he would beat Navalny into mincemeat within minutes.

Fortunately for pedants and unfortunately for blood-seekers, Navalny accepted but specified that the weapons would be words.

Yeah, he answered a challenge of a duel by accepting it as a debate. Dangit, Navalny, you may be a social-media savvy anti-corruption activist, but you have no idea how to entertain the crowd at a coliseum. We want blood.

Zolotov went back on his challenge, presumably because he had been hoping to use spears or claymore swords or maybe even claymore mines. (I'd pay double to watch a claymore-mine duel.) And now the fight is playing out in court. The initial case was thrown out December 17 on a series of technicalities. It turns out, Zolotov's lawyer wasn't particularly good with words, because the lawsuit had "discrepancies contradicting Russia's Civic Procedural Code."

Zolotov has until January 9 to re-file his lawsuit. We'll update this story if it turns to duels again. No promises if it remains a legal battle.