Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Russia’s third largest political party, threatened Ukraine will cease to exist as a state. He said he was responding to a statement by Oleksandr Turchynov, former secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.
In fact, Turchynov never made such a statement.
“Turchynov said that it is necessary to blow up the Crimean Bridge. Perhaps lunatics can be found who will try to do that. In that case, Ukraine will cease to exist as a territory that considers itself a state,” Zhirinovsky tweeted on July 16.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, 73, has been a member of the State Duma (the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament) since 1993. He has run as a candidate in nearly every Russian presidential election since founding the LDPR and registering it as the Soviet Union’s second political party (other than the Communist Party) in April 1991. For decades, Zhirinovsky has rated among Russia’s most popular politicians. According to the most recent poll (July 2019) by the state-owned VTsIOM polling agency, Zhirinovsky was Russia’s fourth most trusted politician, behind President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Despite his high public trust ratings, Zhirinovsky is famous for making controversial, often inaccurate claims, as in the recent case involving Ukraine’s Oleksandr Turchynov.
Turchynov did not say that it was “necessary” to blow up the Russian-built bridge that spans the Kerch Strait between the Black and the Azov seas, connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
In a July 15 interview with the Ukrainian news portal LB.ua, Turchynov, who served as the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council under former president Petro Poroshenko, highlighted the country’s new Neptune mobile cruise missile system as a solution to Russia’s threat in the Black and Azov seas.
“Our cruise missiles will be able to destroy Russian warships of any class not only in the Black and Azov seas, but also in their home ports, and, if necessary, to demolish the bridge, Russia brags about so much,” Turchynov said.
Speaking of Russia’s military involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Turchynov said that 37,000 troops from Russia’s 8th Army were recently deployed to eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while another 33,000 were deployed to Crimea.
“From the East, we are threatened by the 8th Army, in reserve of which are the 49th [Army] and 58th Army of the Southern Military District; from the North, [we are threatened] by the 20th and 1st Panzer Army of the Western [Military] District,” Turchynov said. “To this potential, we need to add two more armies of aerospace forces, which are ready to support an offensive from the air, and six missile brigades deployed along our borders.”
As a result, Turchynov said, Moscow is capable of marshaling a force exceeding 200,000 troops for an offensive against Ukraine within 24 hours.