RUSSIA: An Evening of Talk with Mr. Nice Guy

Derided and often dismissed as a buffoon, Vladimir Zhirinovsky knows how to tailor his image to different audiences. During a dinner with TIME editors at Moscow's Metropole Hotel, Zhirinovsky repeatedly insisted that he was a "moderate" and that his more extreme statements were intended only to call his countrymen's attention to Russia's dire condition.

As part of the charm offensive, Zhirinovsky brought along his attractive, dark-haired wife Galina, a biologist, and their 23-year-old son Igor, in lieu of the two senior aides who had been invited. "He's complicated, but he's predictable," Galina said with a laugh. Zhirinovsky barely touched the vodka...

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