Russian lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a far-right political heavyweight who was in the public eye for more than 30 years, has died aged 75.
“After a serious and prolonged illness, Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky passed away,” the speaker of the Russian parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, wrote on Telegram on Wednesday.
“His personality is so large-scale that without him it is difficult to imagine the history of the development of the political system of modern Russia,” Volodin wrote, adding that Zhirinovsky was “a man who deeply understood how the world works and foresaw a lot.”
In fact, Zhirinovsky correctly predicted the Russian invasion of Ukraine almost to the exact day, arguing back in December that “at 4am on February 22, you’ll feel [a new Russian foreign policy].” The Russian invasion began on February 24.
“2022 will be a non-peaceful year, it will be a year when Russia becomes great again,” he said at the time.
Zhirinovsky was widely seen as a court jester-type figure in the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, but at the same time he provided an outlet for the grievances of nationalistic Russians through his embittered rantings while also remaining a loyal member of the opposition.
Zhirinovsky founded Russia’s far-right Liberal Democratic Party in 1989, and though he remained largely on the political fringe electorally, his party nonetheless came second in the 1993 parliamentary elections, while he came third in three separate presidential elections.
An ultranationalist, Zhirinovsky has advocated for Russia to take back the former Soviet republics it lost with the dissolution of the USSR, threatened to “wipe out” Poland, and once argued the Baltics should be flooded with nuclear waste. But his views became increasingly mainstream as Vladimir Putin moved further right in his rhetoric and actions.
Putin personally paid tribute to Zhirinovsky after the news of his death, arguing that he “always “defended the patriotic position and the interests of Russia.”