People: Zhirinovsky in punch-up with Moscow's traffic cops

THE EAGERNESS of Russians to clutch at all things Western has now embraced that phenomenon of Hollywood, the celebrated punch-up with the traffic police. And who should be involved in such a display of indiscipline and decadence but the celebrated ultra- nationalist and presidential hopeful, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who leads one of the largest factions in the lower house of parliament, the Duma. Mr Zhirinovsky is accused by the Moscow traffic police of assaulting the traffic cop who ticketed one of his bodyguards.

As a member of parliament, Mr Zhirinovsky enjoys immunity from prosecution. But pressure has been building for parliament to do something about the feisty nationalist with a taste for the outrageous. Russia's chief prosecutor is already attempting to have the Duma lift Mr Zhirinovsky's immunity so that he can be prosecuted for warmongering and inciting ethnic hatred.

A MONTH after his death, the former East German leader Erich Honecker has pulled off a final coup from beyond the grave.

In his memoirs, Honecker, who died in exile in Chile from cancer, lauds the Marxist state which he led for almost two decades as superior to that of the capitalist West, and also throws into doubt claims by the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, that the leader of then West Germany never made concessions to the East Berlin regime. Honecker praised the quality of dialogue he said existed between the two Germanies and said that, until the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, nobody called the legitimacy of the East into question, least of all Mr Kohl.

JAPAN'S new Prime Minister, Tomiichi Murayama, might not bring any experience to the job but he has a rare gift for a politician - he can laugh at himself.

Mr Murayama, the leader of Japan's Socialists who has taken power in a marriage of convenience with the Liberal Democrats, has never held a cabinet post and has little experience in international affairs, policy-making or pushing through legislation. But when asked recently why his popularity seemed to be on the rise, Mr Murayama, known for his bushy eyebrows which are a cartoonists' delight, offered a modest explanation: 'Maybe it's because I have a funny face.'

STAFF shake-ups and shuffles in the Clinton administration are making the US ambassador to Japan, Walter Mondale, restless. He is said to be bored with his job and is seeking a bigger role as part of Mr Clinton's team.

Mr Mondale, vice-president under Jimmy Carter, was in Washington last month for Emperor Akihito's state visit and 'made his availability known' as a possible replacement for the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher.

THE American Attorney-General, Janet Reno, didn't discuss politics during a reunion with her Danish cousins this weekend, but she said Denmark's crime reform programme offered lessons for the US. On a short visit to her grandfather's country, Ms Reno drew attention to a Danish programme aimed at keeping young people away from crime by linking a young offender's rehabilitation to school, sports and youth club activities.