ABC News reports that Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the far-right Russian politician, has died at the age of 75.
Zhirinovsky’s death was announced on Wednesday by Vyacheslav Volodin, the current speaker of Russia’s parliament. Volodin said that Zhirinovsky’s death was the result of a long and serious illness.
It appears that the illness may have been either COVID-19 or COVID-19 related. Earlier this year, on Feb. 2, Zhirinovsky was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia after contracting COVID-19. In late March, Russian officials said that Zhirinovsky’s health was “in serious condition.”
It is unclear when exactly Zhironvsky died. There have been reports of his death for some time now. But, the official announcement just came this week.
Who was Zhironvsky?
Zhirinovsky was a member of Russia’s political scene for over three decades. He was part of the so-called Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.
According to BBC, Zhirinovsky and his party were part of the official opposition that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “tolerated.” During his career, Zhirinovsky ran for the Russian presidency six times.
The New York Post, however, points out the true nature of this so-called opposition:
Ostensibly it provided political competition; in practice it backed [Putin] when it mattered, for instance over the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Zhirinovsky also proved useful to the Kremlin in floating radical opinions to test public reaction.
It is with this idea in mind that Political commentator Konstantin Eggert once referred to Zhirinovsky as “the Kremlin’s pocket nationalist and scandal-monger.”
As a political figure, Zhirinovsky was known for making outrageous statements and doing outrageous things. This included everything from threatening to launch nuclear weapons against countries to threatening to take Alaska from the United States.
More recently, Zhirinovsky appeared to predict Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He claimed that he was vaccinated against the coronavirus eight times.
It is these kinds of statements that kept Zhirinovsky in the public spotlight for decades.
In announcing Zhirinovsky’s death, Volodin offered a brief tribute to the late politician saying, “the scale of [Zhirinovsky’s] personality is such that without him it is difficult to imagine the history of the development of the political system of modern Russia.”