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MOSCOW-If you think talk is cheap, try chatting with bad-boy Russian politician Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky.

Having successfully sold himself to voters in last autumn's parliamentary election campaign, the legislator is now pitching himself to a perhaps equally hungry, but slightly richer, customer: the Western news media.

Until recently a seemingly tireless font of outrageous, often racist banter, Mr. Zhirinovsky is now charging for interviews. And it seems Russia's new law banning hard-currency sales does not apply: Mere rubles won't buy his tongue.

"It's $100 for 3 minutes," Mr. Zhirinovsky's spokeswoman, Anya Derzunova, told Advertising Age.

Mr. Zhirinovsky advocates a return to the centralized, state-run economy that discouraged private enterprise under communism, and he has equated bankers and entrepreneurs with "bandits [who should be] shot on the spot."

But despite his firm anti-Western stance, the Russian nationalist and his followers apparently have a basic understanding of capitalism.

"You have made money off of us; now we will make money off of you," an outsized bodyguard told journalists at the headquarters of Mr. Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party after offering an interview with another politician, one Mr. Zhirinovsky wants to appoint prime minister, at a rate of $100 for 15 minutes. The interview fees came after balloting in which the party took 25% of the vote.

The good news: While other Russian politicians are often pressed for time, Mr. Zhirinovsky will talk "as long your money lasts," Ms. Derzunova said.

Mr. Zhirinovsky, who appeared on Russian TV more than any candidate during the November/December campaign, puts an even higher price on his face. He asked one U.S. network to pay $60,000 for a TV interview, according to The Washington Post, which said the network refused.

A journalist in the Moscow bureau of RTL, a German network that recently aired a characteristically provocative interview with Mr. Zhirinovsky, denied the company had paid for the encounter. But Ms. Derzunova said "countless" media organizations from "a wide range of countries" have already shelled out cash for a few minutes from the man who hopes to be Russia's next president.M


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