Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zhirinovsky Declares Rift a Crafty Ploy

Vladimir Zhirinovsky attempted to show a united front with rebels in his Liberal Democratic Party Thursday, less than 24 hours after they had stormed out of the party's parliamentary faction.

Making claim to tactics reminiscent of Stalin, Zhirinovsky declared that a rift with two top party leaders had merely been "a game" to reveal "secret service agents" who had infiltrated his party.

On Wednesday, infiltrators were purged from branches in St. Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk and Vologda, he said.

"We did it on purpose," Zhirinovsky continued, standing next to the chief rebel, Viktor Kobelev, at a morning press conference. "We exposed the agencies that tried to lure people away and break up the party."

Jokingly, Zhirinovsky added: "Certain secret service men won't get their bonus this year."

"There were no rifts in the Liberal Democratic Party, there are none and there will be none," Zhirinovsky told the State Duma later.

But the dissidents told The Moscow Times that they had not returned to the party and had made a truce with Zhirinovsky only when he promised to consult them more and stop making rash, headline-grabbing statements.

The row has seriously weakened Zhirinovsky's image in the parliament and revealed the petty grievances that dominate his party. When he told the Duma to forget Wednesday's incident, he was met by laughter and applause.

On Wednesday, Kobelev, second on the party list and manager of Zhirinovsky's slick campaign last fall, announced that he and, Alexander Pronin had left the Liberal Democrats in the Duma and urged others to join them.

Zhirinovsky had embarrassed the party with the outrageous statements he made while abroad and with his ties to German right-wing extremists, Kobelev said, threatening to reveal dark secrets about the party's campaign finances.

Zhirinovsky, in response, called the two deserters "criminals" and said they had been thrown out of the party.

On Thursday, Zhirinovsky and Kobelev met for almost an hour and then stood beside Zhirinovsky as he announced the row was a ploy. "He came to me first today," Kobelev said, with a self-important look. "He paid heed."

Kobelev also interrupted Zhirinovsky at the press conference, saying the two had agreed to iron out "minor ideological differences," forcing Zhirinovsky to admit he had paid for the truce. "We will sit more often behind the negotiation table together," Zhirinovsky said, adding jokingly: "I will soften up and he will become more radical."

Vyacheslav Marychev, third on the Liberal Democratic list, said Wednesday's walkout had taken Zhirinovsky by suprise, adding that the reconciliation was for public consumption and might still be torpedoed by dissidents.

Kobelev said the deal he had struck with Zhirinovsky meant that: "In the future all his statements and announcements will be made together with the party." He added that the party would try "to correct his statements."

The statements he referred to include Zhirinovsky's threats to wage war on the West over Bosnia and share Poland with Germany, quotes that made headlines in the West and led a string of countries to expel him or deny him entry.