MOSCOW — Over the years, the Kremlin has reached deep into its bag of tricks to silence Aleksei A. Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner and opposition leader. He has been repeatedly jailed, harassed by tax auditors and security agents, attacked with green dye and castigated by the state news media as a traitorous lackey of the West.
But this week, Viktor V. Zolotov, the longtime head of President Vladimir V. Putin’s personal security detail until taking over the Russian National Guard, took things one step further, releasing a video in which he essentially challenged Mr. Navalny to a duel.
The video, laced with prison slang and boorish threats, could have come straight out of “Goodfellas,” or maybe a sendup of a gangster movie.
“I simply challenge you to a fight — in the ring, on the tatami, whatever, and I promise to make nice, juicy mincemeat out of you in a few minutes,” said the speaker, Viktor V. Zolotov. “I promise you that before stepping over you and wiping my feet, I will put on a demonstrative show for all the members of the National Guard.”
Mr. Navalny could not respond to the challenge, because he is currently serving a 30-day sentence for organizing an illegal rally, but his wife, Yulia, came to his defense.
“This is a threat from an insolent thug, who relishes his impunity,” Mrs. Navalnaya wrote on Instagram. “I despise him as a thief and coward. He is a coward because he dressed up for his video like some general of a Latin American Junta or as a chief of the Tumba-Yumba tribe.”
What seems to have gotten under Mr. Zolotov’s skin was an investigation that Mr. Navalny published last month accusing him of stealing millions in a scheme involving inflated food prices.
It was a little unclear what Mr. Zolotov meant by a duel. He did not seem to be proposing an event with dueling pistols at 20 paces, but something more like ultimate fighting.
“No one ever gave you a kick in the ass, so that you could feel it in your kidney,” Mr. Zolotov said at one point. “Now, you have turned to the right address.”
While Mr. Zolotov’s challenge was initially ridiculed as another bizarre twist in Russia’s often burlesque political theater, it became a little more threatening when Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, seemed to welcome the confrontation.
“Sometimes, you need to fight brazen slander by any means,” Mr. Peskov said.
With that, a Kremlin-friendly party in the Russian Parliament jumped in, proposing a law to legalize duels, insisting that officials should be able to defend their honor.
Despite the celebrated death of Alexander in 1837, dueling never caught on in Russia the way it did in, say, France and England. Nevertheless, it was basically legalized in 1894 before being outlawed by the Bolsheviks in 1917.
Under a proposal put forward this week by the Liberal Democratic Party, which is led by the nationalist firebrand Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, three types of weapons would be permitted in duels — sabers, small swords and pistols.
It appeared that the draft law was copied from a 1912 codebook for duels, except that references to noblemen were replaced in the text with “government and municipal officials.”
“There is a recent tendency for government and municipal officials to challenge to duel citizens, who express points of view that are different from the official one,” said the cover letter to the draft law.
By the end of the week, though, the matter seemed to be blowing over, with Russians of all sorts heaping scorn on Mr. Zolotov. One critic, a professional swimmer, challenged him to a duel in a swimming pool. Lyubov Sobol, a member of Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, suggested a mathematics exam might be a more appropriate option for someone who is accused of corruption.
Novaya Gazeta, a leading Russian opposition newspaper, suggested that the duel should take place at a lavish residence near Moscow that belongs to Mr. Zolotov’s son.
Some, looking on the bright side, noted the departure from the usual Kremlin policy of dismissing Mr. Navalny as insignificant. But Georgy Alburov, a leading investigator for Mr. Navalny’s foundation, was having none of that.
“Many people said on Tuesday that this is a good sign that political discussion gets revived and Navalny gets recognized,” Mr. Alburov said on Thursday. “But this is basically an attack by a thug with the relevant language and threats.”