National Guard commander challenges opposition figure Navalny to hand-to-hand fight

National Guard commander challenges opposition figure Navalny to hand-to-hand fight
The head of the Russian internal security agency has dismissed charges of graft and corruption made by Aleksey Navalny, calling the activist a “cloned US puppet” and challenging him to a hand-to-hand fight.

You have allowed insulting and slandering theorizing about me and it is not a habit among officers to simply forgive such things. Since time immemorial, scoundrels get slapped on the face and are challenged to a duel,” General Viktor Zolotov said in a video address posted on Rosgvardiya’s website on Tuesday. “Mister Navalny, no one can prevent us from bringing back at least part of these traditions. Here I speak about demanding satisfaction,” he added.

I simply challenge you to hand-to-hand combat. In a boxing ring or on a tatami, wherever you see fit, and I promise to turn you into minced meat.”

The video address was posted soon after Aleksey Navalny’s NGO, the Foundation for Countering Corruption, released a report in which it alleged that tenders for purchases of food products by Rosgvardiya were rigged in order to give preferences to one supplier, supposedly connected with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Zolotov dismissed these allegations as groundless and noted that Navalny’s attempts to understand the system of military tenders betrays the fact that the activist “lacked some wits.” The general also said that any violations in his agency were targeted jointly by the counterintelligence, military prosecutors, Audit Chamber and internal security department. “We do have some violations, they really exist. This is why we are fighting them, we detect the felons and either sack them or put them on trial, depending on what they have done,” he stated.

Zolotov also questioned the motives behind Navalny’s anti-corruption drive.

Navalny and the like, who are you anyway? I want to understand what are your components, where you come from and what for? It is clear that you come from an American syringe, you are all clones and, of course, puppets,” Zolotov said.

The Russian National Guard (Rosgvardiya) is a federal agency reporting directly to the president, and which was launched in early 2016 as a replacement for the interior ministry’s force manned largely by conscripts, but used mostly for internal security, counterterrorism, and police operations.

General Viktor Zolotov was appointed the head of the agency when it was instituted. Prior to that, he led the interior ministry troops, and between 2000 and 2013, he headed the Presidential Security Service.

On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, commented on Zolotov’s video that “the Kremlin does not see the address as a physical threat to the opposition.”

A lawyer working for the Foundation for Countering Corruption, Lubov Sobol, told RBC that the NGO was ready to defend itself in court. “We are ready to bear responsibility, not only publicly but also in court. All proof in this case is self-evident, it has been published on the website for government tenders,” she said.

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