The Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, owner of Britain's Independent newspaper, shows a glimpse of his past as a KGB agent during an extraordinary outburst on a TV talk show.

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The flagship programme "Crisis - Russian Reponse" began with as a lively discussion about the global financial crisis.

Then, another of the world's richest men, Russian property developer Sergei Polonsky, shouted that he was sick and tired of useless discussion about it with tycoons, and he would rather hit someone instead.

In a critical situation, there is no choice. I see no reason to be hit with the first shot. I neutralised him. Alexander Lebedev

Mr Lebedev took exception to that and moments later. to everyone's astonishment, he attacked Mr Polonsky, punching him in the head and sending him sprawling.

A nervous Mr Polonsky got back on his feet and the two oligarchs exchanged words as others try to calm the situation.

Mr Lebedev later said he had been reacting to Mr Polonsky's threatening manner, writing in a blog: "In a critical situation, there is no choice. I see no reason to be hit with the first shot. I neutralised him."

Mr Lebedev bought Britain's Independent newspaper for a pound 18 months ago, and also owns the Evening Standard.