The Russian presidential election may be a farce in which incumbent President Vladimir Putin’s most realistic concern is low turnout from a bored electorate, but the first presidential debate on Wednesday was pretty exciting.
Female candidate Ksenia Sobchak threw a glass of water at Vladimir Zhirinovsky after he told her to shut up, and Zhirinovsky responded by calling her a whore:
This exchange of cold water and hot language began when Zhirinovsky began arguing with a third candidate, Sergei Baburin. Zhirinovsky is noted for his very short temper, bitter nationalist politics (elsewhere in the debate he accused NATO of plotting to invade Russia to steal its drinking water), complaints about the high cost of vodka, stern criticism of low-quality Russian lingerie, and occasional bouts of cruelty to animals.
Baburin also thinks NATO is planning to subjugate the motherland by “destroying the Russian spirit,” although he did not say anything about water theft. One thing the two firebrand politicians evidently disagree about is whether Zhirinovsky actually shot one of his political opponents, as he has occasionally threatened to do in the past. Zhirinovsky, who insists he restrains himself to the occasional clubbing and a bit of light strangulation during political debates, took great exception to these allegations.
Sobchak took exception to Zhirinovsky’s exceptions and interrupted his interruption, telling him to pipe down before he turned the debate into a circus.
“Shut up, you silly fool!” he snapped at her.
“Well, that’s how you talk to me, huh?” responded Sobchak, a former television host and the only female candidate in the race. Sobchak had already drawn Zhirinovsky’s ire by accusing a member of his party of sexually assaulting female journalists and asking the Duma’s Ethics Committee to investigate.
When Zhirinovsky doubled down by essentially calling her a brainless idiot, Sobchak indignantly shouted his name and let fly with the contents of her water glass.
She probably did not expect the sudden shower to cool Zhirinovsky down, and she was not disappointed. Sadly, the entire exchange was clipped from video released to the public and the official transcripts, but according to Russian media his ensuing tirade included phrases such as “f**king whore” and “crazy bitch.”
He repeatedly referred to her as a dirty prostitute and a piece of trash, refused the moderator’s instructions to refrain from profanity, and demanded her eviction from the debate. However, he missed the opportunity to scold her for wasting the precious Russian water that NATO plans to steal.
“Such a coarse woman should not be here! This is filth! It is Dom-2, where all the depravity is!” he shouted, referring to a reality TV show Sobchak once hosted.
After the debate, Sobchak sweetly claimed she threw water on Zhirinovsky in a bid to calm the fiery septuagenarian down before he gave himself a heart attack. Her husband more bluntly referred to Zhirinovsky as an “old, delusional moron.”
RT.com hilariously describes Zhirinovsky’s previous exchange of liquid artillery with a debate opponent, saying, “On one occasion back in 1995, he scolded the then-Nizhny Novgorod governor, the late Boris Nemtsov, and threw a glass of juice at him only to get douched in return.”
TASS scored Sobchak and Baburin the overall winners of the debate, which they astoundingly considered “dull on the whole.” Praise for Sobchak’s performance was dulled by political analyst Vyacheslav Smirnov snarking that she “masterfully impersonated the role of a U.S. Department of State agent” because she criticized Putin’s interventions in Syria and Ukraine, including a pointed reference to the Russian “mercenaries” killed when they attacked a U.S. position in Syria.
“I want to understand why Russia pursues an aggressive foreign policy,” she said. “Why do we forget we are a European country? We must return to good neighborly relations and friendship with the European countries, to civilized society.”
Sobchak also complained about the debate as a means of marginalizing the candidates opposing Putin and demanded an opportunity to debate the incumbent one-on-one in a prime-time television format. Putin skipped the debate, instead shoring up his poll numbers by telling the Russian people he is about to deploy an “invincible” missile that can penetrate American defense systems.
Polls say Sobchak is basically tied in a six-way race for last place with every other candidate not named Vladimir Putin. If anyone has a chance of putting a dent in Putin’s ballot box take, it appears to be multi-millionaire Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin, who might be closing to within 40 points of Putin according to some surveys. Ksenia Sobchak is an interesting candidate, but the notion of a former reality TV host winning a presidential election seems far-fetched.