Zhirinovsky finds a soul-mate in Le Pen

The publicity-addicted Vladimir Zhirinovsky has never made many bones about the merits of polygamy, so it should be no surprise that he has two courtships on the boil. The first is with his wife, Galina, who squeezed into a backless wedding dress yesterday before proceeding through the snow-bound streets of Moscow for a silver wedding blessing which had more to do with votes than vows.

The second is with his latest political bedfellow, Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France's far right, who was the only guest of honour. A day earlier the two pledged to form a European union of ultra-nationalists with the self-proclaimed aim of defying historical precedent and using their ideology to "prevent war in Europe".

First things first. When Mr Zhirinovsky said he would provide Moscow's homeless with a "sea of vodka" for his anniversary festivities, we thought cunning old Vladimir was trying to upstage Boris Yeltsin's announcement - expected this week - of his candidacy in June's presidential elections.

But the event was not one of the finer moments in Mr Zhirinovsky's long repertoire of political theatre. Hundreds rather than thousands pitched up in sub-zero temperatures to watch him and his wife draw up in a carriage drawn by three white horses and disappear into the 300-year-old church of St Michael the Archangel. The onlookers found not a sea of vodka, but a puddle.

Mr Zhirinovsky, whose burly frame had been coerced into a tuxedo and bow tie, and his wife renewed their vows in a Russian Orthodox ceremony in which they kissed icons, held candles and paraded under crowns. "They seemed to have no idea how to behave," said one witness, "They spent most of the time muttering to each other, and waving to their friends."

Outside, a long queue of hopeful elderly Russians formed outside a bus dispensing drink, rolls and meat pies. Many got nothing at all, and had to make do with Mr Zhirinovsky and his aides throwing 500 rouble notes (value: 7p) into the crowd, like a tsar dispensing favours to serfs.

Some relished the event and spoke admiringly of their host; others did not. "I can't stand Zhirinovsky," said one woman, as she left an earlier church service. "I am afraid he could come to power. I am ashamed he has come to our church. We love this church, and we don't want him here."

In the end it was all about television publicity, an art in which Mr Zhirinovsky outstrips all his competitors - last December his Liberal Democratic party came second in Russia's parliamentary elections to the Communists.

The same motive almost certainly inspired Mr Zhirinovsky's sick answer to a question about how he and Mr Le Pen would react if their two countries went to war. "We will send in the Chechens. France will send her African negroes. Jean-Marie will be in Paris drinking French wine and I will be in Moscow drinking vodka. From time to time, we'll phone each other to tot up how many Chechens and negroes have been killed."

None of this sheds much light on the larger and more disturbing questions raised by the Zhirinovsky phenomenon. What if he means even half of what he says? What if he makes it to the Kremlin in June?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk