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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Drunk Officer Beats Up TV Anchor

Lev Novozhyonov, the popular anchor on NTV's late-night "Segodnyachko" program, received a ministerial apology Tuesday after he and a female passer-by were beaten up by a drunken lieutenant of Russia's Interior Ministry troops.

A colleague said Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin had phoned to apologize to Novozhyonov, who received three stitches over his eyebrow after the assault early Tuesday morning.

Police said Azamat Zainulin, a senior lieutenant of the interior troops, was apparently on a drinking binge when he carried out the attack and he now regretted it.

"He seemed to have been drunk in a capital way," said Alexander Ivanov, the Moscow city military prosecutor. "Only a drunken man could have attacked a woman in that beastly way."

The attack occurred at about 1:30 a.m. on Sukharevskaya Ploshchad in downtown Moscow when Novozhyonov was on his way home from his Monday night show, said Veronika Luxemburg, a senior editor at "Segodnyachko."

Having stopped to buy flowers for his wife's birthday, Novozhyonov was reaching for his money when a stranger, who was dressed in military fatigues and had close-cropped hair, put a lit cigarette lighter under Novozhyonov's wallet and then punched him in the face.

A woman, who was apparently about to ask Novozhyonov for an autograph, tried to help but she was also hit on the head, Luxemburg said.

The assailant, who proceeded to kick Novozhyonov's car, did not utter a word throughout the whole thing, Luxemburg said. "There is no knowing what he would have done had he not been stopped," she said.

Luckily, a police officer, who was driving by on his way home from work, and a karate expert, who was also passing, collared the assailant and took him to a police station.

"Segodnyachko" is famous as a satirical and irreverent current affairs and chat program but staffers said the attack seemed unrelated to Novozhyonov's work.

The Interior Ministry's troops, separate from the police force, are armed with heavy weapons and used for large-scale disturbances. They bore the brunt of the fighting in Chechnya, where they were accused of atrocities against civilians.

According to the military prosecutor, Zainulin claimed he was celebrating the award of a military medal for his service in Chechnya. When interviewed while sobering up Tuesday, Zainulin said he was totally drunk during the attack and did not remember what he was doing. "Now he is weeping and says he was a fool," the prosecutor said.