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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

LDPR Picks Zhirinovsky To Run for President

The Liberal Democratic Party officially nominated Vladimir Zhirinovsky as its candidate for president Wednesday, as Russia's major parties begin preparing in earnest for the June 16 presidential elections.

The field is likely to be a crowded one.

Retired General Alexander Lebed is expected to be nominated as the candidate of the Congress of Russian Communities on Thursday. The reformist Yabloko party will propose its candidate -- undoubtedly economist Grigory Yavlinsky -- later this month.

The Communist Party will nominate its candidate for president in mid-February, with Gennady Zyuganov most often mentioned as the party's standard-bearer.

President Boris Yeltsin has played coy on the election issue, saying that he will announce whether he intends to run in February. A group of volunteers has already begun gathering the 1 million signatures Yeltsin needs to run, however, and the group's leader told Interfax on Wednesday that Yeltsin had given him "the informal go-ahead" to do so.

Other candidates have registered with the Central Election Commission, or have announced their candidacies publicly, but have no real chance of winning. These include Alexander Rutskoi, the nationalist who was once Yeltsin's vice president; Sergei Mavrodi, whose MMM pyramid scheme collapsed and took with it many people's life savings; and film director Stanislav Govorukhin.

Mikhail Gorbachev, whose political career disintegrated with the Soviet Union, also may run, although his chances of winning are not high.

"Before the New Year, he made statements that were close to putting forth his candidacy," said Viktor Kuvaldin, a political scientist with the Gorbachev Fund. "But he hasn't said the final word yet."

Zhirinovsky's nomination came as no surprise. The fiery ultranationalist has long made it clear his goal is to sit in the Kremlin, and Wednesday's LDPR congress was a mere formality. Members held their red party cards in the air to unanimously nominate Zhirinovsky, and when asked for other nominations cried, "No! No!"

Zhirinovsky said Wednesday the race would be between himself and Yeltsin, and he offered the president advice.

"Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin], clean your Augean stables: your administrative offices and your assistants! The majority of them ... are lurid examples of the fifth column," he said. According to Zhirinovsky, it was a similar fifth column that Stalin was fighting when he launched his purges, killing millions. The purges, said the new presidential candidate, were a promising idea gone bad.

"If [the purges] had been for figures of today like [former Prime Minister Yegor] Gaidar, [Economic Freedom Party leader Konstantin] Borovoi and their ilk, we could have welcomed that," he said.

Regarding the terrorist attack in Kizlyar, Zhirinovsky called for destroying the Chechen rebels with napalm.

"I turn to you as the president: If you don't destroy all of the fighters within a month, if you don't issue a decree to burn to the ground all of their bases, no matter on what territory they are located, to burn them with napalm ... then you will lose the elections on June 16 and I will do it on July 1."

Zhirinovsky also demanded that Yeltsin restore, by May 1, the life savings of every Russian citizen over 60.

"If the president will smear the walls with those terrorists, and hang them and shoot them, and give the elderly back their money, then he has a chance to win [the elections], and we will again be in second place," Zhirinovsky concluded.

. Those savings evaporated in the out-of-control inflation of 1992 and 1993.