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Russian 'political clown' wants to fire up side at Euro 2008

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A Russian ultranationalist politician notorious for, among other things, brawls with fellow MPs has asked the country's soccer chief for a chance to fire up the national team ahead of their vital Euro 2008 tie on Wednesday.
MOSCOW, June 17 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian ultranationalist politician notorious for, among other things, brawls with fellow MPs has asked the country's soccer chief for a chance to fire up the national team ahead of their vital Euro 2008 tie on Wednesday.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the current vice-speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, caused international alarm when his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) came first in Russia's 1993 parliamentary elections on the back of a confrontational and fiercely nationalist campaign. Although his party's share of the votes has gone down since then, it is still the third largest in the State Duma.

Zhirinovsky has, in his time, threatened to seize Alaska from the United States, to launch a nuclear strike on Japan, and to destroy the Baltic states. Many political and social experts have suggested that Zhirinovsky represents and gives vent to the darker side of the Russian character, providing at times a vital outlet for frustrations and prejudices. General Alexander Lebed, the man credited with ending the first Chechen War, once famously described Zhirinovsky as "God's holy monkey."

"The team needs a special psychological boost, a powerful emotional charge that will ensure their desire for victory," the LDPR press office quoted Zhirinovsky as saying on Tuesday.

"That is why I am asking the minister for sport and the president of the Russian Football Union, Vitaly Mutko, to give me the opportunity to meet with our team and have a talk with the guys before they take the field in Innsbruck," Zhirinovsky went on.

Russia, after losing their first game at Euro 2008 4-1 to Spain, beat Greece 1-0 on Saturday. Nothing less than victory over Sweden on June 18 will see them into the play-off stages of the competition for the first time since the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991.

The Russian Football Union has yet to comment on Zhirinovsky's offer to give a pep talk.

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