Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev probed over punch

Russian billionaires come to blows

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Russian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into media mogul Alexander Lebedev, after he punched a fellow guest during a TV debate.

The tycoon, who owns two UK newspapers, could face charges of hooliganism after knocking former real estate businessman Sergei Polonsky off his chair.

The Russian Investigations Committee said it considered Mr Lebedev had "inflicted bodily harm" on Mr Polonsky.

Mr Lebedev says Mr Polonsky was about to hit him so he acted in self-defence.

He told Russia's Interfax news agency: "At one point, expounding on an idea of his and looking straight at me, he said: 'This deserves a punch in the face'.

"I asked 'Do you mean me?', and he shouted 'Yes!' After that, I very neatly neutralised this absolutely unfounded threat."

Mr Polonsky has said he is considering legal action against Mr Lebedev.

Mr Lebedev owns Britain's Independent and Evening Standard newspapers, holds a major stake in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and is the largest private shareholder in the Russian airline Aeroflot.

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