Russian far-right lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky dies at 75
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"The scale of his personality is such that without him it is difficult to imagine the history of the development of the political system of modern Russia," Volodin was quoted as saying in a tribute.
Reuters says Zhirinovsky was known for outrageous and headline-grabbing statements, including threats to launch nuclear weapons against various countries, seize Alaska from the United States, and expand Russia's frontiers to the point where its soldiers could "wash their boots in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean".
His Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) - a name that reportedly belied its xenophobic views - became part of the so-called "systemic opposition" to President Vladimir Putin.
The Associated Press (AP) says that as the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party for three decades, Zhirinovsky was infamous for making vehement statements that were neither liberal nor democratic, and typically delivered with a ferocious glare.
Reuters notes that ostensibly it provided political competition; in practice it backed him when it mattered, for instance over the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Zhirinovsky also proved useful to the Kremlin in floating radical opinions to test public reaction.
His career took off in 1991 when he claimed a surprise third place in a presidential election won by Boris Yeltsin. Two years later, his LDPR took second place in a parliamentary election.
Reports of Zhirinovsky’s death had appeared earlier, but had been debunked by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.
Russian media reports have said Zhirinovsky, 75, was admitted to hospital earlier this year after contracting COVID-19.
TASS reported last month that the Russian Health Ministry’s press office reported on February 9 that Zhirinovsky, 75, was in the Central Clinical Hospital suffering from Covid. According to the Ministry, the politician was hospitalized on February 2. On March 11, he was reportedly brought back from an induced coma.