Russian media mogul Alexander Lebedev has been charged with hooliganism in Russia after he punched fellow guest Sergei Polonsky during a TV debate last year.
Alexander 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.
Alexander Lebedev, 52, says the case is a vendetta for his criticism of the Kremlin.
He 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.
Alexander Lebedev – whose net worth was recently reported by Forbes magazine to be $1.1 billion – 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.
The punch-up happened during the show NTVshniki, which was broadcast on 16 September 2011.
Alexander Lebedev said after the incident that Sergei 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 neutralized this absolutely unfounded threat.”
Sergei Polonsky claimed after the show that he had a cut on his arm and his trousers were torn.