Vladimir Putin’s perennial challenger in Russia’s presidential elections has pledged to crack down on oligarchs and impose a “brutal dictatorship” in the unlikely case that he is elected.
State-run surveys suggest Putin enjoys a clear path to victory in the elections two and a half weeks from now. Longtime LDPR party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has been polling a distant third at around six percent. He is widely seen as a figure whose outlandish statements are designed to increase public interest in an otherwise predictable political landscape.
Speaking at a televised debate skipped by Putin, Zhirinovsky said he would “punish the oligarchs and everyone who steals” to return an estimated $1 trillion held offshore.
“It’s impossible to do in a democracy, I will introduce the most brutal dictatorship,” he said in debates broadcast by the state-run Channel One on Thursday.
At least one of the seven registered presidential candidates, marred by vulgar name-calling in the first instalment, criticized the debates as a “farce.”
“I’m not going to participate in this because you’re the ones who keep people from coming to the polls because it’s a farce,” Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin declared before walking off the set.