Prosecutors in Russia are investigating billionaire and British media magnate Alexander Lebedev on charges of hooliganism after he punched a fellow billionaire during a prime time television talk show. Lebedev, owner of several British newspapers, and Sergei Polonsky, a property developer, were part of a panel of oligarchs brought in to discuss the state of the Russian economy. After arguing with various other panelists, Polonsky declared that he was “already worn out from the desire to give [him] a punch in the chops”, gesturing to Lebedev who promptly obliged by knocking Polonsky out of his chair (video here).
Here’s where things get complicated: Lebedev has political aspirations that don’t entirely mesh with the Russian government. However, being a former KGB agent himself, he has maintained peaceful ties with Vladimir Putin despite his co-ownership of an opposition newspaper and criticism of local and national government institutions. He claims he wants to fight corruption in his homeland, and perhaps one day he might get a chance to, but for now he faces a more immediate issues.
In the immediate aftermath a dazed Polonsky swiftly said he would seek legal action. The 38 year old developer, who once said “anyone without a billion dollars is a loser” before his own company went under, later posted photographs of a cut and torn pants online. Such photos helped establish that the incident “brought bodily harm”. No less a force than Vladimir Putin decried Lebedev’s actions. It shouldn’t take a mention of Mikhail Khodorkovsky to remind Lebedev that politically aspiring oligarchs in Russia do best not to offend the powers that be, or give them an excuse to throw you in jail for five years.
In Soviet Russia, class struggles you!