Russian President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard and chief of the National Guard has challenged opposition leader Alexei Navalny to a duel.
Vikto Zolotov recorded a seven-minute speech, posted on the National Guard’s YouTube channel, attacking Mr Navalny over his investigation into large-scale corruption at the National Guard.
Mr Zolotov said he was challenging Mr Navalny to a duel, and made a promise to “make a good, juicy beefsteak” out of the president’s opposition.
He admitted “shortcomings in terms of corruption” but denied Mr Navalny’s claim that he personally profited from the shady deals.
The speech goes against normal Kremlin policy to avoid mentioning Mr Navalny’s name in public.
The opposition leader is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence for organising an unsanctioned public protest.
This follows after last month he published an investigation alleging that at least £22 million had been stolen in procurement contracts for the National Guard.
‘I will make a good juicy beefsteak of you’
Mr Zolotov, 64, who does not usually make public appearances, took to YouTube to voice his anger against the opposition leader.
He said he was insulted by Mr Navalny's allegation and felt compelled "as an officer" to challenge him to a duel.
Mr Zolotov said: "I'm simply challenging you to a fight, to a ring, to a tatami, anywhere where I promise I will make a good juicy beefsteak of you.”
He served in Mr Putin's security detail for 13 years and is believed to be one of the president's closest allies.
Mr Navalny has been convicted on two separate sets of charges and his family members and allies have faced criminal prosecution.
‘Fight shameless libel with all possible means’
The Kremlin on Tuesday dismissed suggestions that it encouraged Mr Zolotov to make his statement.
Mr Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Mr Zolotov did not run his speech past the president and that the Kremlin does not view it as a physical threat to Mr Navalny.
Mr Peskov called Mr Navalny's investigation "shameless lies" and supported Mr Zolotov's outburst, saying: "Sometimes you need to fight shameless libel with all possible means."
While most of Mr Navalny's allies treated Mr Zolotov's statement as a joke, others saw chilling overtures in the former bodyguard's emotional appeal.
Ilya Yashin, an opposition activist and close friend of murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov said: "Zolotov's public threats against Navalny should be taken without any irony.”
Video translation by David Saunders