Next month, Putin and Abbott are expected to meet at a Group of 20 summit in Brisbane. During the event, Abbott plans to raise the issue of Russia's lack of cooperation with Dutch investigators looing into the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine in July.
“There’ll be a lot of tough conversations with Russia, and I suspect the conversation that I have with Mr. Putin will be the toughest conversation of all,” Abbott reportedly said.
Abbott's threat, however, immediately raised speculation about the outcome of such a confrontation. On Tuesday, Alexander Odoevski, a secretary of the Russian Embassy in Canberra, warned that Putin is prepared to fight: "The Russian president, he’s a professional judo wrestler,” Odoevski told Network Ten television, according to the Associated Press.
Twitter users soon began to pick up on the rhetorical fight.
Other users expected more world leaders to join the trial of strength.
Both Putin and Abbott have experience in martial arts: As a college student, Abbott, now 56, punched a fellow rugby player unconscious during a fight on a rugby field, while Putin, 62, is a judo black belt.
There is hope, however, that both parties might reconsider their threats before next month's summit. “We consider the recent statements tough talk; we consider it immature,” Odoevski said. Abbott did not repeat his remarks on Tuesday but reiterated that he was "absolutely determined to have a very robust conversation with the Russian president."