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Ban Against Zhirinovsky Sought in Duma

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, background, smiling as Liberal Democratic Party Leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky rants after Putin's annual address in the State Duma on Tuesday, April 20. Alexei Druzhinin

United Russia is seeking a one-month speaking ban in the State Duma against Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, for his "rude" criticism of Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Deputies voted 302-67 on Friday to order the parliament's ethics commission to analyze Zhirinovsky's words and decide on a possible ban, news reports said.

In a heated speech Tuesday, the flamboyant nationalist lambasted City Hall for corruption and called on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to fire Luzhkov and his whole administration.

Zhirinovsky was speaking after Putin had delivered his annual report to the Duma and promptly handed him a folder, which he said contained compromising information on the mayor.

The Duma deputy speaker also accused Luzhkov of selling the city's "fat chunks" to foreign investors. As an example, he named the Hotel Rossiya complex, which he said was controlled by World Jewish Congress chairman Robin Lauder.

United Russia deputies, who had followed Zhirinovsky's 10-minute rant largely unmoved, some of them even smiling, are now accusing him of transgressing parliamentary ethics.

"Statements of such a rude manner and inappropriate tone should not be heard in the Russian parliament. They … discredit the Duma," Viktor Voitenko, one of the initiators of Friday's motion, said in comments on the party's web site.

"Zhirinovsky's address was insulting, libelous and discredited a regional state organ," the party's motion said, Itar-Tass reported.

The possible ban would not be a first for Zhirinovsky, who was temporarily stripped of his right to speak in 2005 after getting into a brawl with a deputy from the rival nationalist Rodina party.

Luzhkov has not commented on the accusations, but Oleg Mitvol, prefect of the city's Northern Administrative District, asked the Duma for disciplinary measures in an open letter carried by news agencies Friday.

Party officials also made it clear that they were sticking by Luzhkov.

"We are 90 percent like-minded with Yury Mikhailovich, he is one of our leaders and any attack on him from another party's leader is wrong for us," Deputy Andrei Isayev said Thursday, Interfax reported.

Luzhkov was one of the founding fathers of United Russia in 2001, when his Fatherland party amalgamated with Putin's Unity party.

He came under fire from Zhirinovsky after United Russia swept the City Duma elections in October. Luzhkov then filed a defamation lawsuit against the LDPR leader, prompting Zhirinovsky seek damages from Luzhkov.

Sergei Ivanov, an LDPR deputy, criticized Friday's motion as arm-twisting because it already laid down the punishment, Interfax reported.

He was supported by Oleg Shein, the outspoken deputy head of A Just Russia's faction, who said Zhirinovsky was right to address corruption in City Hall.

"This is not a question of parliamentary ethics but of political ethics," he told The Moscow Times.

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