Friday, August 15, 2014

Putin vs. Zhirinovsky

On August 14, Vladimir Putin gave a speech in Crimea. There was a lot of buildup to the speech but, mysteriously, it was not covered in the Russian media. Putin spoke in Yalta with members of political parties from the State Duma (including Prime Minster Dmitry Medvedev and State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin.) The President of Russia’s website has some remarks from his visit (referring mostly to Crimea), but none of the juicy quotes. Unfortunately, the western media almost never provides the text of speeches of foreign leaders. I've only found the following snippets.  I’ll post the full text if it ever appears.

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From the Globe and Mail (AP), August 14, 2014:

During a meeting with hundreds of lawmakers, Mr. Putin spoke with a restraint that contrasted sharply with lawmakers’ bellicose speeches.

Referring to a suggestion by firebrand nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky that the Kremlin should take as an example the czar’s decision to enter the First World War and test new Russian weapons on Ukrainian forces, Mr. Putin said that “Russia should learn from mistakes.”

. . . In a seeming response to the public’s indignation, Russian lawmakers who met Mr. Putin at a giant conference hall in the resort town of Yalta called for blood. Sergei Mironov, leader of the Just Russia party, called for Russia to assume “a tougher stance” against Kiev, arguing that “the lack of a vocal position of our country prevents us from fully protecting the people and stopping the bloodshed.” But Mr. Putin called for a quick end to the conflict: “The country has plunged into a bloody chaos, a fratricidal conflict, a humanitarian catastrophe has hit southeastern Ukraine. We will do all we can to stop this conflict as soon as possible and end bloodshed in Ukraine.”

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From The Moscow Times, August 15, 2014:

"We must calmly and with dignity build up our country without fencing it off the outer world, without breaking ties with partners," Mr. Putin said in comments carried by state news agencies. . . .

"All our partners must understand that Russia, as a large sovereign state, has different ways and means to ensure its national interests, including armed forces," Putin said, Reuters reported. "But this is not a panacea and we do not intend, like some people, to dash around the world with a razor blade and wave that blade around."

During the meeting, organized in newly annexed Crimea, leaders of Duma factions lashed out furiously at the West and Ukraine, advocating outright military conflict.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the notoriously fire-and-brimstone leader of the LDPR, proposed reviving the Russian Empire, replacing Russia's flag with the imperial one, introducing a minister of propaganda and renaming the office of president "supreme commander."

"Elections are worthless, they are a profanation," Zhirinovsky told the audience of elected lawmakers.

Putin responded by saying that Zhirinovsky's arguments do not always reflect Russia's official position, but that he always "gets the party going."

According to [Alexi] Makarkin, the reason that some of the most rabble-rousing Duma deputies were allowed to speak at the event was to demonstrate that Putin is Russia's "sole European" — a reference to the aphorism of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who referred to the Russian government as the country's sole European — and someone who has enough authority and is shrewd enough to control Russia's nationalist zeal. . . .

[Putin[:"Crimea can play a unique role in uniting Russia, it can become a source of historical reconciliation of Red and White forces, so that we may heal the wounds that were inflicted on our people by the dramatic schism of the 20th century."

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