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Vladimir Zhirinovsky holds up an electronic voting tablet at Russia’s election headquarters in September
Vladimir Zhirinovsky casting an electronic ballot during a visit to Russia’s election headquarters in September © Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a veteran of Russian post-Soviet politics notorious for his ultranationalist views and firebrand speeches, has died after a long illness, the parliament speaker has said.

Zhirinovsky, 75, a central political figure and leader of the Liberal Democratic party faction in the Russian parliament, died after a “severe and long illness”, said the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, on Wednesday.

Zhirinovsky was taken into hospital in early February with Covid-19, the health ministry reported at the time.

Outspoken and often wildly controversial, Zhirinovsky represented what analysts called the “systemic opposition” in Russia, a group of political parties whose opposition to Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party within the parliament was condoned by the Kremlin. This is in contrast to the likes of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose opposition movement has been ruled “extremist” and banned.

“The figure he struck was so substantial that without him it is difficult to imagine the history of the development of the political system of modern Russia,” said Volodin.

In December, Zhirinovsky gave a speech in which he predicted the start of the Ukraine war almost to the hour.

“At 4am on February 22 you’ll feel [our new policy],” Zhirinovsky said in December. War broke out at dawn on February 24.” I’d like 2022 to be peaceful. It won’t be peaceful,” said Zhirinovsky, an admirer of former US president Donald Trump, at the time.

Media reports in late March cited an LDPR party member as saying that Zhirinovsky had died, but outlets retracted the news after Volodin said that he was in fact unwell but alive.

Read More: Live news updates: US imposes fresh sanctions on major Russian banks

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