Lebedev strikes Russian tycoon over TV insults

 

Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev, the financial backer of The Independent, punched a notorious fellow tycoon in the face during a televised talk show over the weekend.

Mr Lebedev floored the construction magnate Sergei Polonsky during a pre-recorded programme that was due to air on Russian television late last night. Footage containing the punch was released on Saturday and quickly went viral on Russian blogs and forums. Mr Lebedev said that once people had seen the lead-up to the incident, his response would become more understandable. "I had to listen to his very aggressive behaviour for an hour and a half," he said. "He insulted everyone in the room."

Mr Polonsky is famous for a remark several years ago that "anyone who does not have a billion can go to hell". It was seen as the epitome of the arrogance of Russia's new rich. The remarks came back to haunt him as the global financial crisis struck in 2008 and his business collapsed. Prior to Mr Lebedev's blow, which knocked him off his chair, Mr Polonsky said he felt like "punching someone in the face".

"I'm not a fan of such behaviour, but sometimes if you are threatened verbally and physically you have to neutralise the threat to the best of your ability, without harming the other person," said Mr Lebedev. "That's what I did." He added that he did not know Mr Polonsky and had not met him before.

He suggested it was possible Mr Polonsky harboured a grudge over comments Mr Lebedev made three years ago about one of his buildings. After getting to his feet, Mr Polonsky said: "I am in shock." It is unclear whether he plans legal action against Mr Lebedev.

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