If Russians ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky was hoping his current trip to America would clean up his image as a potential dictator and anti-Semite, he failed.
At a news conference here, he called Jews a negative influence on Russia, blaming them for the Bolshevik revolution, the breakup of the strong Soviet state and criminal enterprises in his country.
He then renounced anti-Semitism.
“We have a very good attitude to all minorities in Russia,” he said through a translator, saying that neither he nor his Liberal Democratic Party has formally taken a position on the Jewish minority.
Zhirinovsky addressed the United Nations Correspondents Association on Wednesday, following a speech Monday night to the World Affairs Council in San Francisco.
He was scheduled to speak at the National Press Club in Washington on Friday.
At the United Nations on Wednesday, when asked whether he thought the Jewish minority was playing a positive role in Russia, he replied, “I can’t say they are playing a positive role. They are playing a negative role.
“We are patriots of the state, but the majority of those who welcomed the destruction of the state are those who represent the Jewish minority,” he said.
Zhirinovsky then proceeded to distance himself from this statement, as he did from his similar remarks.
“This is not my position. This is the position of the people,” he said.
Continuing in his original vein, he said that Russia’s “new business structures are held mostly by Jewish people. Lots of people understand that a lot of money in these structures are criminal. This explains our opposition to these criminal structures.
“This is not our position. This is the position of the people,” he repeated.
Similarly, Zhirinovsky put the blame on “present propaganda” for saying that “the October Revolution in 1917 was made by those who had been mostly Jewish.
“But this is not our word. This is the word of propaganda. The propaganda is saying the previous regime is a cruel regime – that is why they are against those who made this revolution.
“That is why I would like only to explain what happened. When we are asked why there is anti-Semitism in Russia, we say this is why. We are giving the reasons,” he said.
Zhirinovsky again denied repeated reports that his father is Jewish.
“If you find me Jewish parents, I would be happy to embrace him, kiss him, but unfortunately all my relatives are Russian. I would be happy to have any relatives of any nationality,” he said.
But the Russian parliamentarian, whose party captured 23 percent of the vote in last December’s elections, was forthright about his desire to serve as his country’s dictator.
Asked whether he saw any common ground with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, he praised the new Russian constitution for providing for a “strong authoritarian regime,” which he lamented has not yet come to pass.
“This is the only way to resolve the present crisis,” he said.
“In principle, I am in favor of a democratic regime, a parliamentary republic. But in our current crisis, such a regime cannot produce results.”
Addressing United Nations issues, Zhirinovsky said the world body’s policies were better “15 or 20 years ago.
“I’m against the U.N. interfering in the internal affairs of any state,” he explained.
He said he would have Russia veto economic embargoes and boycotts, such as those presently imposed against Libya, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia.
Regarding the Balkans, he said, “The only solution is the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the region, including the U.N.”