LDPR Offers Lugovoi Immunity in Duma
Andrei Lugovoi's name had been linked to the mysterious polonium 210 poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko. The British wanted Russia to extradite Lugovoi to the UK to stand trial for the murder of Litvinenko.
Litvinenko, a Kremlin critic who had political asylum in Britain, died
Nov. 23 of radiation poisoning, just three weeks after meeting Lugovoi
in a London hotel. On his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Putin of
organizing his murder. Litvinenko's friends say he suspected Lugovoi of
The killing soured relations between the countries after a request to
extradite Lugovoi by the British government was turned down. Four
diplomats were expelled from each country in tit-for-tat expulsions.
Analysts said Zhirinovsky's offer to Lugovoi should play well with the LDPR constituency. Even if Lugovoi does not make it on the list, the publicity will give the party a boost for December's vote.
"It is a successful tactical maneuver from Zhirinovsky. It will bring him new votes," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank.
Lugovoi is a perfect fit because LDPR voters enjoy the showmanship and bravado of the move. They are also more likely to see Lugovoi as a hero for allegedly killing someone they see as a traitor, Pribylovsky said.
The move could be a PR coup for Zhirinovsky, a showman who combines ultranationalist bombast with a reputation as a politician ready to do the Kremlin's bidding.
"If he doesn't wake up his voters, they won't vote, so he needs to give his electorate a carrot to get it to vote," Pribylovsky said.
Sergei Mitrokhin, head of Yabloko's party list in the Moscow district, chuckled when informed of the move.
"This is simply Zhirinovsky working according to his own style," he said. "The party has replaced one scandalous figure [Mitrofanov] with another to maintain the nationalist hysteria that gets the party votes."
"I do not comment on the behavior of Zhirinovsky or others of his kind," Berezovsky said in a telephone interview from Britain.