MOSCOW (AP): In an extraordinary public outburst, President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard and chief of the National Guard on Tuesday challenged opposition leader Alexei Navalny to a duel.
Viktor Zolotov recorded an emotional seven-minute speech, posted on the National Guard’s YouTube channel on Tuesday, attacking Navalny for his investigation into large-scale corruption at the National Guard. Zolotov admitted “shortcomings in terms of corruption” in his governmental agency but rejected Navalny’s claim that he personally profited from the shady deals.
Navalny, Russia’s most popular opposition leader, is currently in jail serving a 30-day sentence for organizing an unsanctioned public protest. Last month he published an investigation alleging that at least $29 million had been stolen in procurement contracts for the National Guard. Navalny rose to prominence thanks to his investigations uncovering official graft and has spearheaded mass anti-government protests across Russia, rattling the Kremlin. Rallies took place on Sunday in all of Russia’s 11 time zones, and the National Guard’s riot police violently cracked down on the protests in some of the cities. The 64-year old Zolotov, who rarely makes public appearances, took to YouTube to vent his frustration with the opposition leader.