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Zhirinovsky Comments Trigger Outcry Across North Caucasus

Controversial Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky
Controversial Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky
Not for the first time, the chairman of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and Russian State Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky has incurred the wrath of North Caucasus officials by making disparaging remarks about the region.

Speaking on a TV talk show late last month, Zhirinovsky advocated erecting a barbed wire fence to separate the North Caucasus from the rest of the Russian Federation and taking measures to reduce the birth rate there, which included imposing a financial penalty for the birth of a third child.

The parliaments of both Daghestan and Kabardino-Balkaria have addressed formal protests to the Russian leadership; the Chechen parliament voted in an emergency session on October 26 to do so, but has apparently not yet approved any such statement.

Republic of Ingushetia head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov has not made any public comment, a failure noted by the opposition Mekhk Kkhel (shadow parliament).

The first regional official to condemn Zhirinovsky was Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov.

In an Instagram post on October 26, two days after the talk show in question, Kadyrov dismissed Zhirinovsky as "immoral and irresponsible" and "a pitiful nonentity" motivated by hatred, not just for the peoples of the Caucasus, but the Russian people, too.

Speaking to journalists later the same day, Kadyrov expressed astonishment that State Duma deputies elected from the North Caucasus republics had not immediately condemned Zhirinovsky. He asked the Duma's Ethics Committee to assess the implications of Zhirinovsky’s "extremist" remarks.

Magomed Vakhayev (United Russia), who represents Chechnya in the State Duma, has since formally asked the Ethics Commission to determine whether Zhirinovsky's comments should qualify as extremist.

Meanwhile, the Chechen parliament met in an emergency session and unanimously approved a proposal by speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, a close Kadyrov associate, to lodge a formal protest with the State Duma.

Chechen lawmakers also resolved to draft individual appeals to Russian presidential administration head Sergei Ivanov, North Caucasus Federal District head Aleksandr Khloponin, Prosecutor General Yury Chayka, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Investigative Committee Chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin, and the heads of the State Duma factions, stressing that criminal charges of inciting interethnic hatred and calling for the destruction of Russian statehood should be brought against Zhirinovsky.

Abdurakhmanov, for his part, called for Zhirinovsky to be stripped of his deputy's mandate.

He said that, if doing so necessitates amending Russian legislation, the Chechen parliament is ready to draft the required legislative amendment and submit it to the Duma.

"We shall not calm down until [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky is removed by legal means," Abdurakhmanov was quoted as saying.

At the same time, the Chechen chapter of the LDPR distanced itself from Zhirinovsky, and its members decided to collectively quit the party. Its leader, Adlan Shamsadov, explained that "we cannot agree with these nauseating and essentially fascist remarks." The party’s Moscow leadership expressed concern that Shamsadov may have made that statement under duress, however, and claimed that the LDPR's Chechen branch was still functioning.

It was only October 31 that the parliaments of Daghestan and Kabardino-Balkaria adopted statements condemning Zhirinovsky and demanding disciplinary action against him.

The reasons for that delay are not clear: It is conceivable that the Russian leadership has finally lost patience with Zhirinovsky and intends to discipline him, but did not want to do so solely in response to demands from Grozny so as not to substantiate the supposition that Kadyrov has already become the tail that wags the Kremlin dog.

The Kremlin may therefore have mobilized the parliaments in Makhachkala and Nalchik to issue comparable calls for action.

The Daghestan lawmakers' statement was addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and to the speakers of both chambers of the Russian parliament, Sergei Naryshkin and Valentina Matvienko. They called for Zhirinovsky to be dismissed from the post of Duma deputy speaker and stripped of his deputy’s mandate.

Echoing Kadyrov, Republic of Daghestan President Ramazan Abdulatipov, who addressed the parliament session, asked rhetorically why none of the other State Duma factions had called for Zhirinovsky to answer for his remarks before the law.

In fact, Yabloko faction head Sergei Mitrokhin had lambasted Zhirinovsky in an interview with the website on October 28.

The same day, the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic parliament adopted an appeal to State Duma speaker Naryshkin, Prosecutor-General Chayka and Investigative Committee head Bastrykin to deliver a legal and political evaluation of Zhirinovsky’s remarks.

Oddly, the parliament of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, which had appealed to then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to rein in Zhirinovsky when the latter affirmed in January 2011 (on the same talk-show) that the residents of the Caucasus "don’t know how to work and don’t want to," remained silent on this occasion.

Nonetheless, Oleg Khatsayev, who represents North Ossetia in the Federation Council, formally called on the Prosecutor-General's office to rule whether Zhirinovsky's comments were extremist.

To date, the only senior Russian political figure to have expressed an opinion is North Caucasus Federal District head Aleksandr Khloponin.

Khloponin branded Zhirinovsky's remarks "banal and cynical" and said he should be held responsible, without explaining how or by whom.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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