Sharp statements by the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, in defense of ethnic Russians have sparked a fierce reaction in the North Caucasus.
Zhirinovsky has found himself at the center of a scandal after the authorities in Chechnya and Dagestan accused him of “inciting interethnic hatred.” Speaking during the Poedinok program on Russia 1 TV channel, he said ethnic Russians, accounting for 80 per cent of the country’s population, should be protected in their own country.
In the program broadcast last week, he also said that the people in the North Caucasus pay less tax and get more subsidies from the federal center than other Russian regions. Zhirinovsky explained he did not mean to offend anyone in Chechnya, adding, “I was speaking about the Russian people”. He told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, “My position was about the need to protect ethnic Russian people.”
There are no anti-Tatar or anti-Bashkir sentiments in Russia, Zhirinovskty said during the program, referring to the Muslim peoples having national republics in central Russia. “The only problem is between Moscow and the North Caucasus,” he added. And not the whole Caucasus, but only three republics: Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia.
The authorities in Chechnya and Dagestan over the weekend condemned Zhirinovsky’s statements. The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, said he did not know why Zhirinovsky “was allowed to make chauvinistic statements provoking interethnic hatred.” These words could “spark chaos in the country, wars between ethnic groups and faiths,” he said on his official website.
Kadyrov said he was waiting for an appropriate reaction from the State Duma and expressed hope that the LDPR would change the party’s leadership. Kadyrov also recommended members of the LDPR’s regional branch quit the party.