Russian Elections: Far right advances with a militant message

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MOSCOW - Hours before Russia's first post-Soviet elections, state television broadcast a programme portraying Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the ultra-nationalist politician, as a Nazi fanatic. The programme had not appeared in published television schedules and seemed to be a last-minute attempt by forces loyal to President Boris Yeltsin to discredit the far-right candidate.

Mr Zhirinovsky, 47, leads the Liberal Democratic Party, an organisation whose name belies its extremist policies. He won almost 6 million votes when he ran against Mr Yeltsin in the presidential elections of 1991. Democratic and reformist parties expressed increasing concern as the campaign drew to a close that Mr Zhirinovsky's party was attracting substantial support.

The programme opened with a picture of Mr Zhirinovsky and a caption that read: 'I am the Almighty] I am a tyrant] I shall follow in Hitler's footsteps]' It showed Mr Zhirinovsky at a rally where he said Jews were responsible for the two world wars and were plotting to achieve world domination.

Mr Zhirinovsky denounced the programme and predicted that the Russian authorities would falsify the election results to deny victory to his party. 'The film was intended to scare people, and I think it was paid for by Western secret services,' he said.

Reports from across Russia yesterday indicated that the Liberal Democratic Party's message of militant nationalism and forceful government might have won significant support. Most Russian servicemen in the Black Sea fleet, the subject of a dispute between Russia and Ukraine, voted either for Mr Zhirinovsky's party or for the Communists, a military spokesman said.

Mr Zhirinovsky stands for the restoration of Russian rule throughout the former Soviet Union. He supported Mr Yeltsin's draft constitution, presumably on the grounds that its provisions for a powerful presidency would benefit him if he won the next presidential elections. He shaped his campaign to attract voters disillusioned with the democrats' theme of economic reform but who remained wary of voting for Communists.