Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev charged over punch-up

media captionRussian billionaires come to blows

Russian media mogul Alexander Lebedev has been charged with hooliganism in Russia after he punched a fellow guest during a TV debate last year.

Mr Lebedev, who owns Britain's Independent and Evening Standard newspapers, faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

In September 2011, he knocked former real estate businessman Sergei Polonsky off his chair during the heated debate.

Mr Lebedev says the case is a vendetta for his criticism of the Kremlin.

The 52-year-old was charged with hooliganism and assault "motivated by political, ideological, racial, national or religious hatred, or hatred of a particular social group" - the same offence that three members of Russia's Pussy Riot punk group were jailed for earlier this year.

Mr Lebedev - whose net worth was recently reported by Forbes magazine to be $1.1bn (£680m) - has already signed an undertaking not to leave Russia, prosecutors say.

The former KGB agent also holds a major stake in Russia's opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

'Threat neutralised'

The punch-up happened during the show NTVshniki, which was broadcast on 16 September 2011.

Mr Lebedev said after the incident that Mr Polonsky was about to hit him so he had 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 claimed after the show that he had a cut on his arm and his trousers were torn.

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