Russia’s prosecutor general is investigating the conduct of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party faction in the Russian parliament. Zhirinovsky could as a result be charged with hooliganism and insulting officials–offenses that can carry a prison sentence. (Russian Television, March 17) On March 11, Zhirinovsky impeded parliamentary business for a full hour, hurling insults at other members of the Duma and throwing water at them.
Uncharacteristically, Zhirinovsky apologized for his behavior two days later. That might have been the end of the matter had not all forty-four members of the Yabloko faction staged a walk-out, vowing to boycott parliamentary proceedings until the prosecutor general took action. Yabloko said it was protesting less against Zhirinovsky’s antics — as it did not expect any better from him — than against the conciliatory tone of the Communist faction, which said it was prepared to let the matter drop once Zhirinovsky had apologized. Zhirinovsky’s chances of standing trial are still slim, however. If the prosecutor general decides there is a case to answer, he will have to ask the Duma to lift Zhirinovsky’s immunity from prosecution. Mindful that they could be next, members of parliament will be wary of setting a precedent by stripping Zhirinovsky of his immunity.