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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Mourning, Zhirinovsky Praises Kim's Korea

As North Koreans mourned the passing of President Kim Il Sung at their Moscow embassy Monday, Vladimir Zhirinovsky paid a visit to praise the world's longest ruling dictator and the totalitarian state he built.

Dressed in a shiny black tie which sparkled in the bright sunlight, the ultranationalist leader seemed to find a new model for his vision of utopia, praising Kim, who died Friday at age 82, as a friend of Russia, and complimenting a country many call a Stalinist nightmare.

"In North Korea, no one suffers from hunger, there is no unemployment or homelessness," Zhirinovsky said in an interview. "Everything is done well there as far as the workplace, education, relaxation, and many problems have been solved."

A few steps away inside the embassy, a massive painting of Kim Il Sung towering over a mountain appeared to be the very image of natural harmony Zhirinovsky described.

According to M. J. Yun, an embassy protocol officer, Zhirinovsky was one of several hundred Russians to pay their last respects Monday to the leader Stalin helped install in 1948.

Some of the Russian visitors, such as a delegation of Foreign Ministry officials, came out of professional obligation. Others, such as Igor Svetkov, an engineer with a storm of fuzzy white hair, came out of political solidarity.

"The country is for socialism, and we sympathize with them," he said. "If before it was Marx, Engels and Lenin, in our lifetime it is Mao, Stalin and Kim Il Sung."

Vladimir Tolstikov, 70, said he knew Kim personally.

"He was a very talkative, lively man who liked to tell jokes," said Tolstikov, who worked as a Soviet correspondent in North Korea during the Korean War. He also remembered the leader's son, Kim Jong Il, as a lively boy in the early 1950s.

Tolstikov recalled that the elder Kim spoke halting Russian -- a result of serving as a Red Army officer in the Far East in the 1940s, according to Russian and foreign sources.

Yet Kim's time in the U.S.S.R. is clouded by decades of propaganda. A spokesman for the Russian military could not confirm Kim's participation in the Soviet Army, and Yun of the North Korean Embassy said Kim Il Sung was only in the Soviet Union for a few months.

The birthplace of Kim Jong Il, 52, is also a matter of dispute. A 1993 book by the South Korean Institute for South-North Korean Studies says that he was born in the Russian village of Vyatsuk near Khabarovsk. He was called Yura as a baby, the institute said.

To North Korean eyes, Kim Jong Il's hometown is far more than historical trivia. Kim Il Sung's birthplace is called "the Cradle of the World Revolution," and Communist propagandists have always claimed that his son was born in a "secret camp" on the sacred Mount Paekdu in North Korea.

"Since he's a new leader, it's not convenient that he be born abroad," a Russian Foreign Ministry official said.