Leaders of former Soviet republics and politicians across Europe expressed alarm at the victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections of Mr Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, which calls for Russian territorial expansion and summary execution of criminals.
Mr Zhirinovsky, rejecting accusations that he is as dangerous as Hitler in the early 1930s, pledged to co-operate with President Boris Yeltsin and the new parliament to ensure that Russia did not slide into anarchy. Appearing at a news conference in evening dress and bow tie, he said: 'To save Russia, we will definitely abandon narrow party interests and are ready to form blocs with any forces.'
Scenting the democrats' blood, he stipulated Mr Yeltsin should sack the Economics Minister, Yegor Gaidar, the Privatisation Minister, Anatoly Chubais, and the Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev. The first two are architects of Mr Yeltsin's efforts to move towards a market economy; the third is pro-Western and hated by nationalists.
Leaders of Mr Gaidar's electoral bloc, Russia's Choice, which includes 12 government ministers, held emergency talks on how to neutralise the impact of Mr Zhirinovsky's victory. But the Communist Party leader, Gennady Zyuganov, rejected Mr Gaidar's proposal of an 'anti-fascist pact'. He said Mr Gaidar's policies, strongly backed by Western governments, had inflicted 'national genocide' on Russia.
With results in from three quarters of Russia's regions, the Liberal Democrats led the field with 24 per cent of votes cast. Russia's Choice was second with 14 per cent, but third and fourth place went to anti-reformists - the Communists (almost 12 per cent), and the Agrarian Party (almost 10).
Like the Soviet-era assembly Mr Yeltsin blew up in early October, the new parliament seems certain to contain a solid core opposed both to the president and to his reforms. But Mr Yeltsin's narrow victory in Sunday's constitutional referendum means he may be able to use his greatly increased presidential powers to circumvent parliamentary obstruction.
Mr Yeltsin vowed on Monday night to press ahead with democratic reforms, but has otherwise kept silent on strategy. He has conspicuously avoided coming to the defence of Mr Gaidar, and some commentators predicted he might be prepared to sacrifice his favourite economic reformer if he can keep his Defence Minister, Pavel Grachev, his Security Minister, Nikolai Golushko and Interior Minister, Viktor Yerin. That trio has risen in influence since helping Mr Yeltsin crush the armed parliament uprising.
Despite his victory, Mr Zhirinovsky seemed in no hurry to demand government posts. His real goal remains the Russian presidency, for which elections must be held by 1996.
In a sign of what may lie in store if he secures that, Mr Zhirinovsky said he identified with Russians who complain that too many minority groups are television presenters. Extremists believe Jews should be driven off the screen.
Rise of the wild man, page 8
Letters, page 15Reuse content