Aid of another sort, meanwhile, will apparently be traveling from Moscow to Baghdad over the weekend. Russian news agencies reported yesterday that Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the maverick leader of Russia’s ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, is set to depart by air for Iraq on October 31. Zhirinovsky, who will be accompanied by Russian Duma Deputy Speaker Mikhail Gutseriev, will be bringing a shipment of medical and school supplies as part of a humanitarian aid package for Iraq’s population. The trip reportedly comes at the invitation of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Zhirinovsky will return to Moscow on November 3 (Russian agencies, October 29).
Zhirinovsky has long called for better Russian relations with Baghdad and, late last year, was among Moscow’s most vociferous critics of proposed U.S. air strikes on Iraq. Like a number of other leading Russian politicians, he has also repeatedly urged a speedy lifting of international sanctions on Baghdad. Zhirinovsky’s upcoming “aid” mission to Iraq will not be his first. In December of last year he arrived in the Iraqi capital with a large contingent of Russian lawmakers and reporters, and what was said to be some five tons of medical supplies for Iraq’s population (AP, December 25, 1997).
Zhirinovsky’s latest foreign adventure–this one is likely to be looked upon with some favor by official Moscow–comes only days after he led a delegation of LDPR lawmakers on an unofficial trip to Taiwan. That trip, said to be aimed at building ties between Russian and Taiwanese businessmen, was criticized by Beijing and repudiated by Russia’s parliamentary leadership (see the Monitor, October 20-21).
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