Bulgaria orders Zhirinovsky to leave

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The Independent Online
VLADIMIR Zhirinovsky, the ultra-nationalist Russian leader, was yesterday ordered out of Bulgaria after publicly insulting President Zhelyu Zhelev by suggesting it was time for him to step down, writes Adrian Bridge.

According to Bulgarian state television, Mr Zhirinovsky, who arrived in Bulgaria on Saturday as part of a controversial European tour, was given his marching orders yesterday evening. A statement from the Interior Ministry in Sofia said Mr Zhirinovsky, whose Liberal Democratic Party achieved astonishing success in Russia's elections earlier this month, had been told to leave within 24 hours.

The ministry said Mr Zhirinovsky had made a number of 'unacceptable' remarks about President Zhelev that effectively constituted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. 'Bulgaria cannot tolerate such behaviour, be it by a private citizen or the official representative of a foreign power,' the statement said.

Although Mr Zhirinovsky insisted he was visiting Bulgaria in a private capacity, his remarks about President Zhelev over the weekend touched a raw nerve in a country which for years counted as Moscow's most loyal ally in Communist East Europe. For many they were a chilling reminder of the past. For others, they were simply beyond belief. As the anti-Communist daily, Demokratsia, put it: 'Political cretinism visits us'.

On Sunday, Mr Zhirinovsky described Mr Zhelev as a transitional leader following the collapse of Communism whose time was up and who should now 'take a rest'. He suggested a replacement: Svetoslev Stoilov, a Bulgarian largely unknown to Bulgarians, who lives in Austria and describes himself as a businessman and whom Mr Zhirinovsky refers to as 'our European consultant on economic issues'.

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