Kremlin Dilemma

On October 24, Russia’s Kremlin-friendly politician LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky went on television, where he shouted and ranted about the North Caucasus, apparently calling for barbed wire to be placed around the region, for the fertility of ethnic North Caucasians to be suppressed, and for an increase in the military presence and level of surveillance in the area. His comments received wide support from viewers, by a ratio of three-and-a-half to one over those of his opponents on the show.

Zhirinovsky’s high-profile intervention came in the context of the suicide bombing in Volgograd,  the riots in Biryulyovo, and the recent ethnic pogroms in several of Russia’s cities.

Writing in North Caucasus Weekly, Jamestown analyst Valery Dzutsev commented that

the controversy surrounding Zhirinovsky’s latest comments may not end up being as beneficial to the political players as initially assumed—emotions within society are running high, and the politicians might be forced to actually take some decisive steps beyond simply making a show of their indignation. The Kremlin does not seem to have a good way out. If Moscow reprimands Zhirinovsky, thereby supporting the North Caucasians, it will face a backlash from ethnic Russians. If Moscow does not react to Zhirinovsky’s tirade, it will disappoint the North Caucasians and undermine the positions of the governors in the region. Since the Russian government cannot afford to offend ethnic Russians, the North Caucasians are likely to bear the brunt of ethnic-Russian resentment. This is likely to result in ever greater levels of distrust between non-ethnic-Russian North Caucasians and ethnic Russians, while the governments in the republics of the North Caucasus will have to adopt much more nationalistic stances in order to retain some credibility among their constituents.

Later, on November 12, Caucasian Knot reported Zhirinovsky as saying that his comments had been misunderstood:

“I regret that part of our society  got a negative impression. I spoke only about combating terrorism,” Vladimir Zhirinovsky said at a plenary session of the State Duma.

The LDPR leader also stressed that he meant “to take measures if terror acts were committed”, “Interfax” reports.

As far as the statements about birth control were concerned, then, according to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, he was talking about international practice, and did not make them with regard to the Russian  Federation.

The LDPR leader expressed his regret about the situation.

 

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