Russian extremist faces charges

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The Independent Online
RUSSIAN prosecutors yesterday launched an investigation that could lead to the ultra-nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky being charged with spreading war propaganda, a crime punishable by up to eight years in prison.

Mr Zhirinovsky dismissed it as a 'canard of the press blind in its desire to smear me' and repeated many of his controversial views about Russian domination.

The investigation follows a complaint by the lawyer and writer Kronid Lyubarsky, who said Mr Zhirinovsky's autobiographical Last Push to the South breached the criminal code because it 'advocates the unleashing of an aggressive war against countries neighbouring Russia - Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan'. In the book Mr Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), speaks of his vision of Russian soldiers 'washing their boots in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean' and of Russian workers relaxing on the Turkish coast.

At a press conference yesterday Mr Zhirinovsky, who promised a sequel, to be called Last Wagon to the North, reiterated the philosophy of his autobiography and said Russia would not attack its neighbours but wait for them to beg for help. 'We will just pull out of the south (Central Asia and the Caucasus) and there will be chaos. Without Russia they cannot be civilised and they will die. Look at the Armenians and Azeris. Look at the Georgians. On the walls of Georgian homes it is written 'Russians, please don't go home. If you go, who will bury the Georgians?' . . . We are not colonisers, we are saviours. Russian soldiers will not shoot. No, we will sit at home and drink tea while they die.' To which an Asian journalist replied: 'Where will you get the tea from?' He had no answer.

The press conference had ostensibly been called for the LDP leader to give his assessment of the work of the new State Duma, to which he belongs. Mr Zhirinovsky had nothing newsworthy to say about such current political issues as the formation of a new cabinet and the resignation of leading economic reformers. Instead, he attacked the crowd of journalists he always draws: 'Special agents and journalists follow me from the toilet to my bed. If you want to write about everything, don't spy on me through the keyhole. Come to my bedroom so we can eat together and sleep together. You will witness everything in my bedroom. There'll be real photographs for you and lots of lifelike noises.'

The press pack was swelled yesterday by German correspondents following Gerhard Frey, leader of the far-right German People's Union, visiting Moscow as Mr Zhirinovsky's guest. Mr Frey said it was 'against German interests to keep annoying the future Russian president' and raised the possibility of 'peaceful border changes' which would return Silesia, now in Poland, to Germany. Mr Zhirinovsky dreamt of a new era of Russian-German friendship when 'Russian and German engineers, using foreign labour, will build highways from Hamburg to Japan and not tanks . . . ' The LDP leader also refused to withdraw a threat to create a 'new Hiroshima' in Japan if it defied him. 'I don't want to do that. But I warn you, if the world keeps mocking Russia, there will be a third world war. Bombs will drop, but not on cities in Russia.'

Mr Zhirinovsky, who has been expelled from Bulgaria and denied a visa to Germany, is to leave soon on a private trip to Poland and the former Yugoslavia.

Yesterday he denied reports that he would visit Auschwitz, but said he would need guards to protect him from millions of adoring fans who would shower him with flowers in Warsaw and Belgrade. He has demanded that Russia forthwith adopt 'an unambiguously pro-Serbian position'.