Monday, March 20, 2006

Zhirinovsky et al

Vladimir Zhirinovsky and some others were on a show this weekend about Russian-Ukrainian relations. According to the radio, he was rewarded this morning for his efforts with the honor of being blacklisted for a visa to Ukraine--it was that bad.

He was with Boris Nemtsov, Gleb Pavlovsky, the Kremlin spin doctor, and a couple of others including a Duma deputy whose name I now can't remember. Nemtsov was more or less fine. Pavlovsky came across as reasonable. The Duma deputy though said at one point, "Russians want to know if you are our friend or our enemy?" It was in the context of a discussion on NATO accession and it was framed as a question but the tone was one of a demand.

Zhirinovsky though breathed fire and spit in the faces of a lot of Ukrainians. I wouldn't be surprised if he single-handedly set back Russian-Ukrainian relations for years all by his little lonesome. I think he got all the political parties there to agree with each other on Russia, except for Party of Region.

Nemtsov, at one point, said that Zhirinovsky was drunk. He had too much of his own label vodka on the plane over. His point was that Zhirinovsky was more Zhirinovsky than normal that night. He said this with a laugh and thought it a light thing. But I don't think it went over all that well with viewers here. I could be wrong but I don't think so.

The question is how many Russians Zhirinovsky speaks for. He's a fringe player in Russia and a hothead but how many people does he really speak for when he talks about Ukraine? That is a question that I think people here will ask.

I wonder what the Kremlin thinks about it? Maybe they are emboldened by Yanukovych's comeback to not worry about it. They are once again in the driver's seat, maybe, so who cares?

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