It wasn’t long ago that the Kremlin declared 2022 the country’s “year of unity,” a sentiment that quickly fell apart as Vladimir Putin’s closest allies created their own circular firing squad over the country’s war on Ukraine tackled.
Now that power struggle has reached a spectacular and hilarious climax 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, does not involve sword or pistol as it used to be, but if Igor Strelkov has his way, a public debate.
Strelkov, the former self-proclaimed “defense minister” of Ukraine’s also self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, took to Telegram on Wednesday to slay none other than the Kremlin’s top propagandist, Vladimir Solovyov.
The beef? Solovyov on Tuesday used his television program to publicly mock Strelkov for his “pseudo-patriotic” attempt to re-enter the war in Ukraine and subsequent failure to reach the frontline.
Strelkov had left to join Russia in eastern Ukraine in October and spent nearly two months there before revealing that he was back in Moscow after his efforts “didn’t end in success”. As one of the most high-profile Russians involved in Putin’s first phase of the 2014 war against Ukraine and an outspoken critic of current military strategy (not to mention his involvement in the downing of flight MH17), Strelkov was widely laughed at for returning with his tail between his legs.
“This one went off to fight, shit itself and came back,” Solovyov said of the former Russian commander. “If you really want to fight, join Wagner. Strelkov left with such pretentiousness, now it turns out he was not allowed on the front line. Well, you should have signed up for Wagner and showed what you’re really worth,” Solovyov said, referring to the private army the Kremlin has used to bolster troops with the help of prisoners.
“And now he’s an anti-patriotic blogger telling the high command how to fight. Why didn’t you show it yourself? Why did you deceive yourself? Solovyov raged.
Strelkov responded to the TV presenter’s diss on Wednesday, challenging the “cowardly and downright fake creature” to a live debate.
“I am ready for any public debate held with him on any neutral platform (that is, not edited by him or his sponsors). On any subject he wants to raise… The only condition on my part is that the debates be broadcast live and, moreover, recorded by ‘neutral’ operators,” Strelkov wrote.
He said he doesn’t expect Solovyov to risk his “reputation” by agreeing to the debate, but suggested that the Kremlin cheerleader might be so sure of himself that he agrees in the hopes of watching his opponent live on to “crush” TV. .
There was no immediate response from Solovyov and it was not immediately clear when or where the debate could be held if the challenge is accepted.