It wasn’t too long ago that the Kremlin declared 2022 a “year of unity” in the country, a sentiment that quickly fell apart as Vladimir Putin’s closest allies created their own circular firing squad over the country’s handling of the war against Ukraine.
Now, that infighting has peaked in spectacular and hilarious fashion, as one of the Kremlin’s most rabid mouthpieces has been challenged to a duel by one of the Kremlin’s most notorious accused terrorists.
The duel, of course, will not involve a sword or pistol as in olden times, but if Igor Strelkov has his way, a public debate.
Strelkov, the former self-proclaimed “defense minister” of the equally self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine, took to Telegram on Wednesday to throw down with none other than top Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov.
The beef? Solovyov used his television program on Tuesday to publicly mock Strelkov for his “pseudo-patriotic” attempt to re-join the war in Ukraine and subsequent failure to make it to the frontline.
Strelkov had set off to join Russia’s ranks in eastern Ukraine in October and spent nearly two months there before revealing he was back in Moscow after his attempts “did not end in success.” As one of the most high-profile Russians involved in Putin’s first stage of the war against Ukraine in 2014 and an outspoken critic of current military strategy (not to mention his involvement in the downing of flight MH17), Strelkov was widely jeered for returning with his tail between his legs.
“This one went off to fight, crapped himself and came back,” Solovyov said of the one-time Russian commander. “If you really wanted to fight, then join Wagner. Strelkov left with such pretentiousness, now it turns out he wasn’t allowed on the frontline. Well you should’ve signed up for Wagner and shown what you’re really worth,” Solovyov said, referring to the private army the Kremlin has used to bolster troops with the help of prison inmates.
“And now he is an anti-patriotic blogger who tells the high command how to fight. Why didn’t you show it yourself? Why did you shit yourself?” Solovyov raged.
Strelkov responded to the TV presenter’s diss Wednesday, challenging the “cowardly and flat-out phony creature” to a live debate.
“I am ready for any public debate with him held on any neutral platform (that is, not edited by him or his sponsors). On any subject that he wants to bring up … The only condition on my part is that the debates must be broadcast live and additionally recorded by ‘neutral’ operators,” Strelkov wrote.
He said he doesn’t expect Solovyov to risk his “reputation” by agreeing to the debate, but suggested the Kremlin cheerleader might just be so sure of himself he’ll agree to it in the hopes of “crushing” his opponent on live TV.
There was no immediate response from Solovyov, and it was not immediately clear when or where the debate might be held if the challenge is accepted. But we can always hope it’s several stories up and has a lot of open windows.