Bwok bwok The spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry challenged Putin’s biggest critic to a debate. Hours later, she backed out
On April 30, in what would have been a highly unusual public exchange, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova challenged opposition leader Alexey Navalny to a debate, after he criticized her recent remarks about Russian tourists stranded abroad because of the coronavirus pandemic. The debate was supposed to take place on May 1, but the arrangement soon collapsed. Both Zakharova and Navalny have offered different accounts of how this happened.
Maria Zakharova: Communicating through Lyubov Sobol, Alexey Navalny started setting conditions for the debate: we can only meet with a moderator and only talk about certain themes. You’re a coward, Navalny. You’re finished.
Alexey Navalny: Maria Zakharova refuses to debate, but she insists that I’m the one who refuses. We proposed a debate with a moderator and she wasn’t opposed, but then she refused. A debate without a moderator is pretty weird, but my position hasn’t changed: I agreed to this debate and I’m ready to have it even without a moderator.
Maria Zakharova [after a suggestion by the radio station Ekho Moskvy to host the debate without a moderator]: I have no intention of speaking with this cardsharp. I now understand how sleazy these people are. I’m not missing the opportunity to speak with Navalny — he’s the one who squandered this. I don’t believe there won’t be another deception.
Alexey Pivovarov: The chain of events from where I’m sitting: late last night, Lyubov Sobol called me and suggested that I moderate an online meeting between Maria and Alexey, specifying that both sides had agreed to my participation. Then Maria Zakharova called me and we discussed possible debate topics. Today, May 1, I spoke to Maria again and she said that she refuses to take part in a debate with any moderation (not just mine). I conveyed this to Lyubov Sobol and thus consider my participation here to be concluded.
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