Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, an ultranationalist firebrand politician who was a pillar of the Kremlin’s political system, has died. He was 75.
The chairman of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, told lawmakers on Wednesday that Mr. Zhirinovsky had died “after a serious and lengthy illness.” Mr. Zhirinovsky had been admitted to a hospital in Moscow with Covid-19, Russian media reported in February. His political party, the Liberal Democratic Party, said that he died on Wednesday.
Mr. Zhirinovsky headed Russia’s main nationalist party and ran against President Vladimir V. Putin repeatedly in presidential elections. But he was a crucial player in Mr. Putin’s system of “managed democracy,” which included parties that were nominally in the opposition but were in fact loyal to the Kremlin.
Mr. Zhirinovsky’s role, analysts said, was to scoop up the votes of Russian nationalists while supporting Mr. Putin on key issues.
“He was the first populist of the modern European type,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, a research organization. “In Putin’s time, he became vital,” Mr. Kolesnikov added, because “he channeled the votes of far-right voters.”
In so doing, Mr. Zhirinovsky gave voice to nationalist, chauvinist and imperialist impulses — and advocated frequently the reuniting of Russia with what he considered historical Russian lands in Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
On Dec. 27, he gave a speech to Parliament that appeared to foreshadow Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, predicting that a turning point in the country’s history would come on Feb. 22. (The invasion began on Feb. 24.)
“This will not be a peaceful year,” Mr. Zhirinovsky said. “This will be the year when Russia finally becomes a great country again, and everyone must shut up and respect our country.”