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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zhirinovsky Was KGB, Sobchak Says

Russian ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is a former KGB officer and created his Liberal Democratic Party in 1990 at the urging of former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, the mayor of St. Petersburg has said.


Anatoly Sobchak, a leading reformer on the Russian political scene who was formerly close to Gorbachev, made the statements in an interview published Wednesday in the weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta.


He said more details -- now known only to a selected few -- would be offered in a book he has written that is nearing publication called "Once Upon a Time There Was a Communist Party."


Zhirinovsky, who won only 8 percent support in the 1991 presidential vote against Boris Yeltsin but whose party made a strong showing in the Dec. 12 legislative polls, has said he favors restoring the borders of the former Soviet empire and has gained increasing media attention for a series of controversial pronouncements, such as threatening Germany with a third world war.


The St. Petersburg mayor said that the inception of Zhirinovsky's party was in March 1990 just after the old Congress of People's Deputies had abolished the monopoly of the Communist Party.


Gorbachev, as then head of the Soviet Communist Party, told a party Politburo meeting that "we must stay ahead of events by ourselves creating the first alternative party, but one that we can control," according to Sobchak.


The KGB was told to choose the leader of the new party and "as always the KGB succeeded in its mission: it dug into its 'active reserves' and found a man with the rank of captain whose name has today become well known," Sobchak said.


Several Russian papers and politicians have charged that the old Soviet security police was behind the creation of Zhirinovsky's party, but Zhirinovsky has consistently denied this.


Meanwhile in Germany, the mass circulation daily Bild has launched what was seen as a vitriolic campaign on the private life of Zhirinovsky, depicting him as brutal, perverse and threatening.


Bild, which calls Zhirinovsky "Russia's Hitler," printed an interview Wednesday with a young woman who said she worked as a prostitute in a Vienna bar where she reportedly had an encounter with Zhirinovsky whom she described as violent and cynical.


Though Chancellor Helmut Kohl has promoted the idea of reconciliation with the Russian people, fear of Russians lies deep in Germany because of the memory of World War II atrocities by the Red Army who, according to historians, raped some 2 million German women.