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, the AP reports. 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.
The 64-year old Zolotov, who rarely makes public appearances, took to YouTube to vent his frustration with the opposition leader. Zolotov said he was insulted by Navalny's allegation and felt compelled "as an officer" to challenge him to a duel: "I'm simply challenging you to a fight: to a ring, to a tatami, anywhere where I promise I will make a good juicy beef steak of you," Zolotov said, seated at the desk and shaking his fist. Zolotov served in Putin's security detail for 13 years and is believed to be one of the president's closest allies. His Tuesday speech is a radical departure from the usual Kremlin policy of avoiding mentioning Navalny's name in public. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Zolotov did not run his speech by the president and that the Kremlin doesn't view it as a physical threat to Navalny.