Vladimir Zhirinovsky, figure of Russian politics, is dead

The ultranationalist veteran of Russian political life Vladimir Zhirinovsky has died at the age of 75, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, announced on Wednesday.

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“His personality is so enormous that it is difficult to imagine the development of the political system of modern Russia without him”, he wrote on his Telegram channel about the late troublemaker, who had always taken care not to not oppose President Vladimir Putin.

“He deeply understood how the world worked, and predicted many things,” he continued.

His anti-Western ideas and the greatness of Russia, which seemed extreme in the 1990s, gradually established themselves as dominating public life, including in the Kremlin.

“Vladimir Zhirinovsky was an experienced politician, energetic, open to discussion and a brilliant orator and polemicist,” Vladimir Putin noted, according to a statement.

“Always, regardless of the audience, in the most tense conversations, he defended a patriotic position and the interests of Russia,” he added.

His fellow deputies paid tribute with a minute of silence in the Duma to this explosive personality.

Mr Zhirinovsky had been in agony by many Russian media for weeks after contracting Covid-19. Mr. Volodin reported a “long illness”.

The Ministry of Health told Russian agencies that “great specialists, doctors, fought for his life to the end”.

His death “is a blow to Russia, to the army of its supporters,” commented the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), which he led for more than 30 years.

Classified on the far right, Vladimir Zhirinovsky has participated in almost all the presidential elections in modern Russia and his party has always been represented in local and national bodies, playing the role of a noisy but not rebellious opponent.

It is his diatribes, his warlike impulses and his improbable appearances that remain in the memories of Russians, throwing a glass of water in a debate by insulting his opponent or fighting in the precincts of Parliament with a deputy.

His last feat dates back to December 27, when he predicted that 2022 “will not be a peaceful year, it will be the year when Russia will become a power again”, calling to “wait until February 22”.

Coincidence or not, the day before that day Vladimir Putin recognized the pro-Russian separatists of the Ukrainian Donbass, before bringing his troops into Ukraine on February 24.

Mr. Zhirinovsky had also never lacked harsh words with regard to the opponent Alexei Navalny: as early as 2013, he had estimated that the latter should be sent to prison for ten years. Last March, Alexei Navalny, behind bars since January 2021, was sentenced to nine years in prison.

For Navalny’s team, Zhirinovsky’s party served as a useful front opposition to Russian power.

“Zhirinovsky was one of the pillars of the Putin system,” Lioubov Sobol, an ally in exile of Alexei Navalny, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. According to her, the Kremlin will try to keep the LDPR party but, without Zhirinovsky, “it will not be easy”.

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