A boxing lawmaker who challenged Russian whistleblower Alexei Navalny to a duel admitted that the “business trip” that Navalny criticized him over was an alcohol-fuelled vacation.
“I don’t know about the others, but I went to Italy to relax, swig some vodka and, well, also check out their agricultural processing,” Andrei Popkov told Volgograd region’s Channel 34 television on late Thursday.
A delegation of 46 Volgograd region lawmakers, ministers and their families, led by Governor Sergei Bozhenov, traveled to Tuscany in April.
During the trip, which coincided with Bozhenov’s birthday, the delegation stayed in a five-star hotel favored by former First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva.
Official reports, including on the website of the regional Duma, described the voyage as a business trip to study Italian agricultural achievements. Popkov confirmed it in an interview shot on his return to Volgograd.
Navalny filed in April a complaint with the local law enforcement agencies, saying the officials disguised a personal trip as a business one to make the regional budget foot the bill.
However, regional prosecutors told him the trip was private from the start and did not cost the region anything, he reported this week in a passionate blog post that dubbed Popkov “a lying hog”.
The offended Popkov, a stocky heavyweight who gives boxing lessons on television, challenged Navalny to a boxing match in Volgograd on August 11.
“If Navalny doesn’t come, he’s a girl,” said Popkov, who is a member of the ruling United Russia, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on Wednesday. The whistleblower did not comment on the challenge.
In the interview to Channel 34, Popkov backed the new explanation of the trip, saying it never was formally billed a business trip even though some officials viewed it as such.
“Somebody just doped off,” he said, accounting for the trip’s official description on the regional Duma’s website.