OK, quick, who said the following?
Power in Russia "has always been in the hands of the mafia, criminals, and the corrupt -- from tsarist times until now."
Was it Aleksei Navalny? Or maybe Grigory Yavlinsky? Or Garry Kasparov?
Nope. Nope. And nope.
The comment was made months ago by Vladimir Zhirinovsky in a public appearance captured on video that is again making the rounds on social media as Russia's election campaign gets under way.
In the same appearance, Zhirinovsky said the clause in the Russian Constitution that says "all power derives from the people" is nonsense and anybody who believes it is "a fool."
Now, it's easy to dismiss Zhirinovsky as a buffoon and a showman.
But his role in Vladimir Putin's regime is closer to that of a court jester who speaks truths that more respectable officials cannot.
And who can dispute the truth of what he said here regarding the nature of power in Russia?
It's important to pay attention to what Russia's court jester says during this election campaign as his words are often a signal of the Kremlin's true and unvarnished thinking going forward.
Back in March 2000, for example, shortly after Putin was first elected president, Zhirinovsky came out to speak to journalists gathered at the Central Election Commission.
"It's 30 minutes to the end of democracy," he said, "and you're all on the list."
At the time, everybody laughed.
Nobody is laughing now.
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