Russian statesman Aleksei Zhuravlyov, who publicly advocated for the kidnapping and imprisonment of Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) this week, is not happy with the congressman’s five-word response to his threats: “Fuck around and find out.”
In fact, the tweet from Gallego, a former Marine and Iraq war veteran, seems to have stuck such a nerve with Zhuravlyov that he returned to 60 Minutes on Friday and erupted in a fiery, obscenity-laden bluster—with a death threat to boot. Trembling with anger, the State Duma member was banging on his stand and spewing profanities, which were bleeped out by the program.
“This guy, even though we can’t get him right now, we can issue our verdict in a Russian court… So, you know what, dear friend? We can sentence you here and we have plenty of people like [Ramón] Mercader—former Hero of the Soviet Union—who will carry out our verdict. Mercader is the one who ice-axed Trotsky to death, because the USSR sentenced him to die. You, [obscenity], look at that, American pindos, you’ll be sentenced here and there is nothing you can do. You’ll be running all over [obscenity] America in a bulletproof vest, because there’ll be people who will force you to respect [Russia].”
The outburst came after Gallego’s commentary about deterring Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine made waves on Russian state television. Gallego had suggested that only human casualties on the Russian side, in case of an escalation with Ukraine, might snap Putin back into reality. In response, appearing on Wednesday’s 60 Minutes—the most popular news talk show on Russia’s state-owned television—Zhuravlyov suggested that the U.S. congressman should be kidnapped and transported to Russia, as first reported by The Daily Beast.
Throughout Zhuravlyov’s tirade, other panelists hung their heads, as though to disassociate themselves from the spectacle. State TV hosts Olga Skabeeva and her husband Evgeny Popov grinned and made no effort to stop the lawmaker’s obscenity-laced tirade, even when it crossed over into death threats against the U.S. congressman.
On Friday night, appearing on MSNBC’s The Reidout, Gallego responded to host Joy Reid’s question about whether he would seek additional protection in light of threats coming out of Russia: “They’re not going to do anything, attacking a member of congress is akin to war—except, I guess, if you’re an insurrectionist, but that’s a different story,” he said.
“My statement was very clear and that’s because I support democracy. Ukraine is a democratic institution that is being haunted and targeted by an autocrat Putin and the Russian bear in general. I don’t want to send any troops to Ukraine, I absolutely have said that, one hundred percent, but I want to give Ukraine the capability to defend itself, and we have not given them that opportunity for the last four years under Trump.”
On Saturday, Congressman Gallego told The Daily Beast: “No amount of threats will stop me from making sure Ukraine has the weaponry it needs.”
The escalating belligerence in the Kremlin-controlled state media is not happening in a vacuum, as the Russian public is being groomed for a confrontation with the West. Prominent pundits on state TV repeatedly reiterate that the war against the U.S. is already “ongoing,” albeit not the conventional kind. From election interference to various “info-wars” and ongoing aggression against Ukraine, Putin’s posture towards the United States is becoming increasingly more hostile.
On Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned the U.S. and NATO against ignoring its recent proposal for a security agreement, in which Moscow seeks to roll back many of the security advances NATO has made in Eastern Europe, while tacitly dangling the threat of further military incursion into Ukraine. Urging that it be considered “with the utmost seriousness,” Ryabkov also pointed out that the draft should not be considered a menu of options from which some could be selected and others rejected. He stressed that the Kremlin’s draft is a “package” that has to be dealt with in its entirety.
Russian state television broadcast their own hot take about the Kremlin’s brazen offer, which has already been called into question by the U.S. and NATO officials. Host Olga Skabeeva pointed out that Putin’s proposal comes with a Jan. 14 deadline and co-host Evgeny Popov added: “Let’s call things by their proper names. It’s an ultimatum.”