. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The 'Quiet' Side of Zhirinovsky

HELSINKI -- The wife of Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, often the center of controversy and outrage, portrayed him as a quiet and thoughtful husband.

"He never makes any noise at home, he walks around in soft slippers and a jogging suit. He even watches television quietly," Galina Lebedeva, a biologist, told an impromptu news conference Tuesday during a private trip to Finland.

"He is very considerate to his family, he never forgets a birthday or an anniversary."

Lebedeva, who uses her maiden name in her work as a biologist, was making a rare public appearance less than six months before a presidential election in which her husband of 25 years plans to run.

Zhirinovsky's xenophobic speeches have raised alarm bells in the West. His recent antics include brawling with a woman deputy in parliament and appearing in public stroking the hand of Italy's Hungary-born pornographic film star Cicciolina.

Lebedeva, dressed soberly in a blue suit and with dark hair piled high in a bun, said there were two sides to her husband.

"He can be both serious and playful," she said. "My husband is a very emotional and original person. It takes a special technique to handle him."

She said the media took his more extreme comments out of context and often misrepresented him, but made clear that she believed the country needed a man like him.

"Political conditions in Russia are extremely difficult, Russia needs harsh leadership and extreme views," she said.

Zhirinovksy finished third in the 1991 presidential race, and he plans to run in the presidential election June 16.

Lebedeva declined to discuss details of her husband's presidential bid but said Russia would be strong "both economically and politically" if he won.

She smiled as she described how the couple met at summer camp when they were students at Moscow State University. "Our tents were next to one another. Needless to say who initiated the relationship. He had this childlike quality," she said.