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Germany bans ranting Zhirinovsky

THE leader of Russia's far-right Liberal Democrats, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, was yesterday banned from entering Germany in what was officially described as a rare move. His request for a visa was rejected because his presence could 'damage state interests'. Bonn is embarrassed by the friendly relations between Mr Zhirinovsky and Gerhard Frey, leader of the far-right German People's Union, and does not wish the friendship to flourish.

Mr Zhirinovsky was ordered to leave Bulgaria on Tuesday, accused of insulting the country's first post- Communist president, Zhelyu Zhelev. Mr Zhirinovsky had suggested that one of his own advisers should replace Mr Zhelev.

Yesterday Mr Zhirinovsky, whose party got 24 per cent of the vote in this month's Russian elections, seemed unrepentant. At Sofia airport, where he was delayed by a pilots' strike, he was reported to have told a Russian embassy official accompanying him: 'Call Bulgaria's president and tell him he's scum.' Mr Zhirinovsky said he was being treated worse than Russian prostitutes working in Sofia.

Romania was equally displeased yesterday after Mr Zhirinovsky described it as an 'artificial state' made up of territory seized from Russia, Bulgaria and Hungary, and consisting of 'Italian Gypsies'. A Romanian politician said: 'The only difference between Zhirinovsky's party and a madhouse is that the managers of a madhouse are normal.'

In Bonn, the government spokesman said it was not in Germany's interests that Mr Zhirinovsky's views and slogans be propagated 'from German soil'. His plans in Germany were unclear: he had asked for an 18-day visa and said he would be visiting a European conference in Berlin. But the Foreign Ministry said it had been unable to identify such a conference.

Officials admitted it will not always be so easy to get exclude the man who, according to one opinion poll, is the second most popular politician in Russia after Boris Yeltsin. If Mr Zhirinovsky seeks to visit Germany as part of a parliamentary delegation, Bonn will have little option but to let him in.

Moscow was keen yesterday to distance itself from Mr Zhirinovsky's statements but stopped short of clear-cut condemnation. The Russian ambassador to Bulgaria regretted that 'some Russian citizens during private visits to Bulgaria make statements which do not belong to the ethics or culture of a politician'.

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