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

Vladimir Zhirinovsky cast an electronic vote 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 ultra-nationalist views and incendiary speeches, has died after a long illness, the parliament speaker said.

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

Zhirinovsky was hospitalized with Covid-19 in early February, 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 was approved in parliament by the Kremlin. This contrasts with imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose opposition movement was ruled and banned as “extremist”.

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

In December, Zhirinovsky gave a speech predicting the start of the war in Ukraine almost on the hour.

“At 4 o’clock on February 22 you feel [our new policy]Zhirinovsky said in December. The war broke out at dawn on February 24.” I want 2022 to be peaceful. It will not be peaceful,” said Zhirinovsky, an admirer of former US President Donald Trump at the time.

Media reports from late March quoted an LDPR party member as saying Zhirinovsky had died, but the media withdrew the news after Volodin said he was in fact unwell but alive.

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