Russian media magnate Aleksandr Lebedev ended a talk show on national television by punching a fellow guest and property tycoon in the face, knocking him off the stage.
Lebedev, a trendy 51-year old billionaire who sported square-rimmed spectacles and sneakers, said he delivered the two rights hooks against Sergei Polonsky out of self-defense because Polonsky had behaved like a “hooligan” throughout the talk show.
“I neutralized him,” Lebedev said in comments that may owe something to his past as a KGB agent in London before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Lebedev wrote on his blog: “Unfortunately, NTV watchers will not be able to see how Polonsky behaved throughout the whole hour and a half recording [of the talk show]. Everything suggested that he was completely out of his mind.”
Prior to the fisticuffs, Polonsky had said comments from fellow guests made him feel like “punching someone in the face.”
Lebedev asked Polonsky if he was referring to him and stood in front of Polonsky, until the host intervened and managed to persuade Lebedev to sit down.
When Polonsky again began to speak, Lebedev -- who co-owns the "Novaya Gazeta" opposition newspaper with Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as the British newspapers "The Independent" and "The Evening Standard" -- delivered a series of quick blows, sending Polonsky sprawling from his seat.
Polonsky, 38, said he sustained bruises and torn trousers. He is contemplating legal action but said he wants to consult his friends and a priest first.
The televised discussion was aired uncut on Russian television on Sunday evening. The incident occurred on Friday during the filming of the talk show, which focused on the effects of the global recession.
Polonsky is the former owner of Mirax Group, a property development company that went bankrupt. He is known for having said that anyone who hadn’t made a billion dollars “can go to hell.”
Commenting on the dust-up, Dmitry Rogozon, the bombastic Russian envoy to NATO, tweeted: “Well done Lebedev, although fighting isn’t good. He had it coming to him. You’re a real man.”
Other heated political discussions that have boiled over spectacularly on Russian television include a 1995 argument between ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky and then governor of Nizhny Novgorod, Boris Nemtsov, which saw the two hurl their drinks at each other, followed by a glass:
In televised political debates prior to the presidential election in 2008, Zhirinovsky stood up, shouted at his interlocutor, and physically forced him out of the studio, as seen in the last 30 seconds of this clip on YouTube:
-- Tom Balmforth