Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 29

An Ilyushin-86 plane chartered by Russian ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky finally made it to Baghdad yesterday — with its modest cargo of humanitarian goods but minus the majority of its original complement of passengers. Zhirinovsky’s arrival in the Iraqi capital ended more than three days of protests and intermittent comedy from the bombastic Russian politician. The aircraft had departed from Moscow on February 8 without permission to fly to Baghdad. For three days Zhirinovsky, along with roughly two hundred other passengers, was grounded in Armenia. Many of those on board were reporters.

The UN sanctions committee on February 10 finally gave its approval for the flight to continue on to Baghdad after Zhirinovsky agreed to cut the passenger list down to about thirty persons. A scuffle of some sort apparently occurred as Zhirinovsky attempted to get another twenty passengers on board before takeoff. Reports said that Zhirinovsky verbally abused Russia’s ambassador to Armenia — who was trying to explain why the number of passengers had to be kept at thirty — and then punched the diplomat in the face. A Russian Foreign Ministry official in Moscow later denied that Zhirinovsky had struck the ambassador, but conceded that the politician had "brawled a little" at the Yerevan airport. (UPI, AP, Itar-Tass, RTR, February 11)

While in Armenia, Zhirinovsky had repeatedly blamed the Russian Foreign Ministry, along with the United States, for the UN’s delay in approving the plane’s flight to Iraq. Zhirinovsky has made several visits to Baghdad in the past and has been among the harshest Russian critics of U.S. policy toward Iraq. He has also been among the most vocal of those in Russia who believe that Moscow should resume full relations with Iraq, regardless of the UN sanctions now in place.

UN Commission Suspends Work in North Ossetia.