Zhirinovsky Engages in Street Theater
Published: January 25, 2008 (Issue # 1342)
MOSCOW — Liberal Democratic Party leader and presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky had his back to the British Embassy on Wednesday, but his voice boomed over a microphone toward the Moscow River with a message for British officials.
In a 20-minute tirade that was part theater, part campaign circus, Zhirinovsky accused Britain of most of the world’s ills — including fomenting the 18th-century war between Russia and Sweden, the Russian-Japanese war, World War I, the October Revolution, World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“The British provoked perestroika,” Zhirinovsky said. He accused former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of “pushing” former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to make liberal reforms.
Journalists — Reuters journalists, in particular — were are on the payroll of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6 — “the most disgusting secret service in the world” — Zhirinovsky said.
The embassy’s press service is also working for MI6, he alleged.
With Russian-British relations at a low following the closure of two regional British Council centers and with the March 2 presidential election approaching, Zhirinovsky’s performance was almost a given. While he is largely loyal to the Kremlin, he paints himself as an opposition ultranationalist.
The LDPR had promised an appearance Wednesday by Andrei Lugovoi, the party’s newly elected State Duma deputy who is wanted in Britain for purportedly murdering Andrei Litvinenko, but whom Russia has refused to extradite.
One foreign journalist suggested that Lugovoi might have been pushed onto British territory had he shown up. But there was no Lugovoi, and so it was a typical one-man show from Zhirinovsky.
Before his spoke, eight LDPR supporters, including an 11-year-old girl, held up flags that read: “Russia Has Never Been a British Colony.” One party official insisted that 12 supporters had turned up.
Now and again a motorist would beep a horn on the embankment — possibly in support unless it was an enraged Jaguar driver telling Zhirinovsky to cease his anti-British rhetoric.
“In time,” said Zhirinovsky, hitting his stride, “Britain will be recognized as the most barbaric country on the planet.”
A British Embassy spokesman declined to comment on the long list of accusations.
Apart from his few supporters, Zhirinovsky had one other fan in tow: Iren Ferrari, known as “the biggest chest in Russia,” who wandered down to watch and to pose in the cold for photographers, her coat open and trembling dog, Bentley, in her arms.
“I do not agree with what Britain does in relation to Russia,” Ferrari said, accusing Britain of aggressive politics as photographers clicked away.
When asked if she could elaborate, Ferrari said, “What clever questions you ask,” and giggled.
Zhirinovsky, who insisted that he was not giving a campaign speech, did offer one way for the two countries to mend ties.
“In the end, Britain will have to give freedom to Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland ... and that will only leave London, which, because of [global] warming, will constantly flood,” he said. “And the time will come, maybe, when we will have to accept immigrants because of the climate.”
He also demanded that British Ambassador Anthony Brenton leave his post.
Wrapping up his speech, Zhirinovsky told reporters: “It’s cold. Go home have some tea, and then in the evening go and get your salary at the embassy, one from the ambassador, one from MI6.”