A Perm-based businessman on Tuesday filed a defamation suit against presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who dismissed the whole population of the Urals region, where Perm is located, as “retarded” in a video.
Alexei Reutov is seeking 60,000 rubles ($1,900) in damages from Zhirinovsky and the same sum from the regional branch of the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily newspaper, which carried the video this month.
Reutov was quoted as having said Zhirinovsky's statement was “an extremely cynical act” by the Kommersant daily newspaper.
Zhirinovsky’s original statement was made during a talk show on the Sovershenno Sekretno satellite channel which, oddly, escaped a lawsuit.
“Urals! It has a stupid population. It’s the land of the retarded. From Perm to Yekaterinburg, a retarded population. It might be healthy but take their intelligence – they’re dumb,” Zhirinovsky said in the video.
Zhirinovsky made his observation to account for what he perceived as the “stupidity” of late President Boris Yeltsin, with whom Zhirinovsky and his party, the Liberal Democrats, waged many political battles in the 1990s. Zhirinovsky also ascribed the alleged intellectual problems of the Urals population to a “magnetic field” created by rare metals that abound in the mountains.
Zhirinovsky, who will compete against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and several other candidates in the March 4 presidential elections, never commented on his allegations but his spokesman, Yury Ryzhov, said the video was a “fake” last week.
“Videos like that are … inevitable pre-elections ‘black PR,’” Ryzhov said. He added the video was filmed 10 years ago.
“Zhirinovsky never did say and never says bad things about voters, especially Ural residents, where the Liberal Democratic Party is traditionally strong,” Ryzhov said.
Repeated calls to Zhirinovsky’s press office in Moscow went unanswered Tuesday.
The undated video was uploaded on YouTube on Jan. 3. Sovershenno Sekretno, which specializes in political and historical shows, made no statement on the scandal. A channel spokeswoman could not immediately comment when reached by telephone Tuesday and requested the link for the video to be sent for examination.
Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin, a co-organizer of last month’s sweeping anti-Putin rallies in Moscow, speculated in an article last week that Zhirinovsky, long accused by critics of collaborating with the Kremlin despite his outward opposition stance, might be alienating his core constituency in an attempt to throw the elections, however, he thinks the video is a new one.