Limonov, as a Russian Che Guevara

                     Limonov On the Loose 

 Russia's bad-boy writer and nationalist party boss leaves prison vowing to keep fighting.

 by Nabi Abdullaev  2 July 2003 -  MOSCOW, Russia 

On the last day of June, the writer and extremist party leader Edward Limonov walked out of a prison in the southern Russian town of Engels.  

Limonov had served more than two years of a four-year sentence for buying illegal firearms and leading an organized crime group. On 18 June, a court in Saratov, across the Volga from Engels, told Limonov his good prison behavior had earned him early release.

He intended "to be a modest and decent citizen" after returning to civilian life, Limonov told the court during the release hearing. Then he added, "But nobody can force me to give up my views, and I will [still] be involved in politics."

Politics yes, but literature no more, said the poet, novelist, and memoirist who made his name in the West two decades ago with a handful of angry, raunchy novels featuring protagonists much like himself.

 Speaking to journalists the day prior to the release hearing, Limonov said that after writing seven novels in prison he was quitting literature.

"I am a thinker now," he said.

Limonov's political credo is a mix of extreme leftist rhetoric and nationalism, but it's his personal charisma rather than ideology that attracts people into the tiny and notorious National Bolshevik Party he founded, Alexander Tarasov, an expert on radical politics from the Moscow-based Panorama think tank, said, adding that most party members are young people who identify their leader with the unfettered heroes of his books.

Last winter, Limonov drew the attention of a Saratov television reporter to the similarities between his struggle with the state and that of the 19th-century writer Nikolai Chernyshevsky. What Is To Be Done?, the novel about Russian free-thinkers that Chernyshevsky wrote while serving a prison sentence, became a favorite of many Russian radicals even though the author distanced himself from the peculiar behavior of his male protagonist. Limonov suggested that the case against him was no less political than Chernyshevsky's, who he said was convicted based on a false charge of signing a proclamation against the government. 



Critics may debate whether Limonov deserves a place among the ranks of Russian artist-provocateurs, but the state went after him on more concrete grounds.

Prosecutors originally charged Limonov and five other National Bolsheviks with plotting to overthrow the government, forming an illegal armed group, and conspiracy to commit terrorism. Earlier this year in a Saratov courtroom, however, Judge Alexander Matrosov threw out those charges, which could have sent Limonov to prison for 14 years.

After handing down the sentences in April, Matrosov lambasted prosecutors and the Federal Security Service (FSB), saying they had undermined their own case with irrelevant details and manipulated information to inflate the threat posed by the defendants.

Limonov has always exhibited a theatrical bent--he once said that during his New York days he demonstrated at the offices of The New York Times, demanding the paper publish his writing--and in the past decade has constructed his public face as much through outrageous stunts as through writing. He once lent a hand to Bosnian Serb nationalists by firing a few rounds in the direction of besieged Sarajevo as the Serbian nationalist chieftain Radovan Karadzic looked on. National Bolshevik Party members have hurled tomatoes at NATO Secretary General George Robertson and a cake in the face of the mayor of Nizhny Novgorod. 




In the party's paper, Limonka--the title plays on the party chief's name and refers to a kind of grenade--Limonov used to urge his followers to mount attention-grabbing, nonviolent actions. He also warned them to be on their guard against security forces who might try to bring the party down.

Russian authorities shut down Limonka in 2000, but the party now publishes the paper under the banner of Generalnaya Liniya, or Guideline.

While in prison, Limonov speculated that one of his own articles in Limonka roused the FSB's wrath. The security agency had tipped off Latvian police that four National Bolshevik activists were on their way to Latvia to demonstrate in support of ex-KGB officers on trial there for crimes committed during World War II. Infuriated, Limonov used his paper to accuse the FSB--successor to the Soviet KGB--of betraying its own. He labeled its agents as ratfinks--the most detested category of inmates in Russian prisons.

This article, Limonov said, explained the hard-heartedness of his captors and their determination to punish him despite the holes in their case.

Born Edward Savenko, the young writer took his nom de plume from limon (lemon)--fittingly, for the authorities soon went sour on the young poet, finally expelling him from the Soviet Union in 1974. He went first to America, using his experiences in New York to good effect in his first novel, It's Me, Eddie and following up later in the 1980s with further autobiographical fiction: His Butler's Story and Memoir of a Russian Punk.

The exiled Limonov was most at home in France, the country whose intellectuals welcomed him and whose government gave the stateless writer a new passport. In 2002, a long list of French writers, journalists, and publishers signed a letter demanding Limonov's release from Moscow's Lefortovo prison, where he was being held in pre-trial detention. They were joined by the late Alexander Ginzburg and by Vladimir Bukovsky--two former Soviet dissidents living abroad--but outside France his arrest and trial received little attention, and even in Russia it was followed mainly by the intelligentsia.

One of the few groups to call attention to Limonov's case was the Russian branch of the writers' organization PEN, soon followed by PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee director Sara Whyatt, who issued a statement calling on Russian authorities to ensure that the writer received a fair trial--adding that PEN considered many of Limonov's views "to run counter to its own charter, specifically that PEN members 'pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class, and national hatreds, and to champion the ideal of humanity living in peace in one world.' " 



Although four of Limonov's associates admitted to illegal arms purchases--a total of six Kalashnikov rifles--the government failed to find the smoking gun in its terrorism case against him.

Fittingly, perhaps, for its case against a prolific writer (author of 33 books, he is "perhaps the best writer in the Russian language," Limonov himself put it in 2002 in an open letter, headed "Cell 32, Lefortovo Prison, Moscow," to French President Jacques Chirac), the prosecution relied heavily on documents. Its prize clues were articles published in Limonka and newsletters circulated among party members in 1999 and 2000.

Prosecutors argued that the texts and other documents, as well as secretly recorded conversations, proved that Limonov and former Limonka editor Sergei Aksyonov were the masterminds behind a plan to create a "Second Russia" in one of the former Soviet lands with large Russian populations.

The newsletter articles--Limonov claimed half of them were FSB fakes--maintained that there was no point trying to mount a putsch in Russia itself because any uprising there would be nipped in the bud.

Mountainous regions were most suitable for guerilla bases, but the anonymous authors of the plan rejected the rugged Caucasus countries because they are stuffed with Russian troops and agents, not to mention a non-Russian populace who might begrudge Russian guerillas in their midst.

No, the best place to set up a Russian enclave with Limonov at its head, out of which would arise a new Russian state that would eventually absorb old Russia, is northern Kazakhstan. The local army is weak, and best of all, the country has a large Russian population who would support the "cause of liberation," the newsletter said.

In court, Limonov did not deny his authorship of a letter the FSB said was confiscated during a customs check on his friend, a French writer named Thierry Marignac. The letter was addressed to the French adventurer Bob Denard, whose exploits include leading an attempted military takeover of the Comoros Islands in 1995, and allegedly invited Denard to Russia to advise on the Kazakhstan scheme.

In the teeth of the evidence of the newspaper and newsletter articles and the Denard letter, Limonov and Aksyonov denied drafting the "Second Russia" plan, and testified that they had never advocated the violent overthrow of the Russian government.

Judge Matrosov gave short shrift to the prosecution's most serious accusations. He threw out the charges that Limonov and Aksyonov had plotted to overthrow the government, created illegal armed formations, or planned terrorist acts.

Even bugged conversations revealing Limonov and other party members discussing an invasion of Kazakhstan in the writer's Moscow apartment were, the court said, only "common theoretical talks."

The prosecution called just one witness to back its terrorism case against Limonov. National Bolshevik member Artyom Akopyan testified that Limonov had ordered him to look for places to set up guerrilla bases along the Russian Altai region's border with northeastern Kazakhstan. Limonov denied giving such an instruction.

The judge mocked Akopyan's testimony as the "product of his spy-mania and obsession with Ian Fleming's fiction." 


In June, Limonov told reporters the first thing he planned to do after being freed was to work for Aksyonov's early release. The former Limonka editor was also found guilty of the illegal weapons buy and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

Limonov's party fellows rejoiced after the court's decision to release their guru.

"Im am truly happy and all the other party comrades feel high with the news" said Anatoly Tishin, the party's acting head.

See award-winning documentary THE REVOLUTION THAT WASN'T :


 Anatoly Tishin said 200 delegates from 50 Russian regions attended a National Bolsheviks convention in late April, when they decided to file registration papers with the Justice Ministry to run candidates in this December's parliamentary elections.

There was little reaction to the news of Limonov's impending release in political circles, although some of the cultural figures who had earlier campaigned for Limonov's release seemed slightly bemused.

Days before the writer walked through the gates of the Engels prison, Yevgeny Lesin, editor of Ex Libris, the respected arts supplement to the Nezavisimya Gazeta newspaper, wrote:

"An aged, weary, and meritorious 60-year-old poet and prose writer will soon leave the clink. A young, hungry, and fierce 60-year-old politician will walk free. … Limonov will hardly be involved in literature anymore. Articles, leaflets, but no more books …"

Nabi Abdullaev is a Moscow-based journalist and a long-standing contributor to TOL.
With additional reporting by Sergei Borisov, TOL’s correspondent in Ulyanovsk.

  Look at the other pages of this website (120 including 34 in English)

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A rebel with a cause - 2007

                     A rebel with a cause

Author and politician Eduard Limonov, who will take part in Dissenters’ Marches this weekend, has a new publishing deal.

By Sergey Chernov - The St. Petersburg Times

Staff Writer

Published: November 23, 2007 (Issue # 1326) 

Eduard Limonov. Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

 Eduard Limonov, the controversial politician whose National-Bolshevik Party, NBP, has been recently banned by a court as “extremist,” has been busy working with chess champion and oppositionist Garry Kasparov in The Other Russia, a coalition that aims to revive and defend Russian democracy. Limonov has been demonstrating with Kasparov and others in the Marches of Dissenters, anti-Kremlin rallies that have often been brutally suppressed by the police.

Arrested in 2001, he spent more than two years in prison on charges of unlawful acquisition, possession and transportation of firearms and ammunition.

Despite his political activities, Limonov’s other self as an uncompromising author, seen by some as Russia’s best living writer, remains in the spotlight.

The local Amphora publishing house has announced it will republish many of his books, including the irreverent semi-autobiographical novel It’s Me, Eddie (Eto ya, Edichka). The book brought Limonov, then a political émigré in New York, international notoriety when it was published in English in 1979 in the U.S. (French and German editions followed.) Amphora will also publish a new book entitledSmrt, devoted to what is perhaps Limonov’s most questionable period, when he was a volunteer on the Serbian side in the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

“I’ve just finished it a month ago, actually. It’s an absolutely new book,” said Limonov, 64, speaking by phone from his home in Moscow on Wednesday.

“I just had no time to get to this subject, though at that time I published some dispatches. But now it’s high time. I had a break in the summer and I had finished this book by autumn. It’s not really a collection of short stories; it’s some episodes from the war.

“It’s called Smrt, which is Serbian for ‘death.’ It’s just like the Russian smert, but they write it with no vowels. It’s something abrupt, like the blow of a saber. The Serbian death is shorter than the Russian one.”

To be published in January, Smrt will be preceded in December by Inostranets v smutnoye vremya (A Foreigner in a Time of Troubles). The book is Limonov’s 1990 account of the final years of Gorbachev’s perestroika and the Soviet Union. It is based on his impressions when he returned to Moscow after years of living abroad.

Although both volumes have little to do with today’s Russia, Limonov’s last published book was Limonov vs. Putin, his savage critique of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin politics.

“I am the author of many tomes. I don’t know how many — 45 books already or more. I wrote eight books during my time in prison,” said Limonov.

“I write as needed about what gets on my nerves most at that particular moment. Putin got on my nerves, so I wrote Limonov vs. Putin. The book came out in 2006. No publisher wanted to deal with it, so I had to publish it myself.”

Although the book is not available in Russian bookshops, it can be downloaded free of charge from NBP’s website.

“It’s because there was only one distributor that agreed to take it. Perhaps they changed their policy, because they don’t seem to have sold anything and some copies just got stuck there.”

Limonov, who said he has just written another book called Eres’(Heresy) that he has not yet shown to a publisher, is busy organizing the Marches of Dissenters with his partners in The Other Russia, the coalition of different political groups that borrowed its name from Limonov’s 2003 book. The marches will take place in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

“It’s not simply that I will participate in them. I am the chairman of The Other Russia’s executive committee, so I’m rather the ranking person,” said Limonov.

The rallies will be held to oppose Kremlin-imposed restrictive legislation concerning elections to the State Duma, which will take place on December 2. The new rules all but guarantee the victory of the main pro-Kremlin party, United Russia.

“[The main slogan of the rallies] is Down with elections without choice,” said Limonov. He and Kasparov are banned from appearing on Russia’s state-controlled television channels.

“Down with elections in which four fifths of political parties don’t participate. It’s like the elections at a concentration camp: you are allowed to choose only from the officers guarding the camp. It’s the only thing it can be compared with.”

In The Other Russia’s newspapers, specially published in advance of the Marches, Limonov describes the upcoming elections as a “national shame.” The newspapers also feature articles by Kasparov and Putin’s former economics adviser Andrei Illarionov. Some activists have been detained by the police for distributing the newspapers, and many copies have been confiscated.

“Of course, the elections are a national shame, because no freedom-loving nation would tolerate this. The big question arises, why do we tolerate this — this big lie when some scumbag, pardon me, from United Russia makes a speech and claims in a squeaky voice that the majority is behind them,” said Limonov.

“What majority? It’s like in a camp: you don’t allow people to participate in elections but instead beat them up and hide them somewhere in a punishment cell. What do you expect? You’ve culled everybody and take part in the elections all by yourselves. It’s natural that you’ll win.”

As opposed to the massive events staged by United Russia, The Other Russia’s rallies are frequently dismissed because the number of marchers is low. However, the first March of the Dissenters in St. Petersburg, on March 3, drew an estimated 6,000-plus protesters.

“Many people think this way because they sit with their asses stuck to their chairs, waiting for their heads to be chopped off. That’s why we have small turnouts,” said Limonov.

“If all of us followed this pessimistic, slavish philosophy that says there aren’t many of us . . . Well, get out, get off your ass, think about your children, think about this shameful nineteenth century that we live in now — this smooth-tongued crowd, allegedly applauding Putin, Putin himself whom everybody is sick of beyond all measure.

“They created a virtual reality, a giant lie. While it’s clear that in free elections United Russia would not only not come first but would hardly to get on the list at all.

“But when all rivals are destroyed, there is only the fruit called United Russia at the marketplace.”

Although Limonov’s NBP party was declared “extremist” by the Moscow City Court, which forbade its activities within the Russian Federation in April (a decision that was later upheld by the Supreme Court), the banned party’s members take part in opposition rallies.

“According to the Ministry of Justice and the other bodies, the party doesn’t exist, but our people do exist and those people work within The Other Russia,” said Limonov, whose party flag was lambasted for its alleged resemblance to the flag of Nazi Germany. The NBP flag, however, sports a hammer and sickle, not a swastika.

“It’s risky to go out with the flags of the banned NBP. The flag wasn’t banned actually, but as the party is banned, its charter is obviously banned as well. And the charter includes the red flag with a black hammer and sickle inside a white circle. Now we go out with different flags. It’s not the same flag anymore.”

Considered an extreme nationalist in the 1990s, Limonov now openly advocates democracy and civil rights. He once described NBP as a cross between Greenpeace and Amnesty International.

“It’s because this liquidated, banned party used exclusively non-violent means for bringing its ideas to the masses,” he said.

“We have always demanded [democratic freedoms]. As early as Feb. 23, 2000, even before Putin became the president, we marched down Tverskaya [Moscow’s main street] carrying a 15-meter long banner that read, ‘Down with autocracy and royal succession.’ And the second banner read, ‘Putin, we didn’t invite you. Go away.’ That was in 2000. Let any other party boast that it started to oppose the present president so early.”

Despite the evident change in rhetoric since the 1990s, Limonov claims his views have not changed.

“Absolutely nothing has changed,” he said.

“We demanded freedom, demanded to be allowed to take part in elections, and advocated a certain ideology as we do now. Nothing has changed.

“The other thing is that they created a disgusting image for us — the media did it. Although Yeltsin’s Kremlin didn’t like us any more than Putin’s Kremlin does. I still think that Yeltsin was a super-negative person, the man who dug the Soviet Union’s grave. He’s something like Judas in Christian history or much worse than [the Ukrainian Cossack Hetman Ivan] Mazeppa, who is seen as the greatest traitor in Russian history.”

Regretting the fate of the Soviet Union, Limonov describes himself as a socialist.

“I am not a Marxist and not a Leninist, and especially not a Stalinist, but I think that the country’s wealth should be distributed within the country more or less equally. This does not mean ‘war communism’ or the absence of businessmen, the absence of a middle class or absence of rich people. It means that state policy should focus on the majority of citizens, rather than on oligarchs.”

According to Limonov, his views do not contradict Kasparov’s.

“Gary and I have never disagreed on political matters and never argued on these subjects. If we’ve had arguments, they were technical arguments about how The Other Russia should develop,” he said.

In the upcoming elections, The Other Russia urges voters to write the coalition’s name on the ballots, thus making them invalid. It hopes that the number of such invalidated ballots will define the number of its supporters. It thus discourages Russians from voting for liberal parties Yabloko and SPS, which have little chance of passing the seven-percent threshold set by new Russian electoral laws as the minimum necessary for taking seats in the Duma.

“Yabloko and SPS don’t suit us — we’re different,” he said.

“Yabloko and SPS were in the State Duma already. And my views — I don’t know about Kasparov’s views, whether they coincide in some ways with Yabloko and SPS — but I have few points in common with Yabloko and SPS. Neither do my supporters.”

Unlike Kasparov, Limonov is not frequently profiled in the international press. He recently responded to a British critic for the Observer by writing a column called “Limonov vs. Western Journalists,” ***    which was published in the Moscow-based ex-pat newspaper the eXile.

“I don’t crave the affections of the western press. I absolutely don’t need it,” he said.

“I have no interest in the western press at all. I want the public opinion of other countries, both western and eastern, to be on our side. I want them to support us in our struggle against our country’s tyrannical government.

“But that doesn’t mean I should ingratiate myself to western journalists. I think they don’t understand me and are rather afraid of me.”

Liberal parties Yabloko and SPS refused to take part in the Marches of the Dissenters. They pointed to the views of Limonov and his followers as well as the party’s symbols as the main reason for their refusal.

However, the Petersburg branch of Yabloko has participated in all the local marches and has announced that it will take part in the upcoming march as well. Under attack from the authorities for escalating its criticism of the Kremlin, SPS has this week also announced it will join the rallies.

Despite all the contradictions and criticisms they generate, Limonov is sure that the Marches of the Dissenters are vital for political change in Russia.

“It gives people courage. Everything will be okay here when people start acting courageously. When people stop making excuses — ‘I can’t march with this guy, I can’t march with that guy’ — like capricious children. We should all go out and fight for our freedom — Russians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, whoever. Let’s go out and at least finally organize a decent political system.”

               Sergey Chernov - The St. Petersburg Times - 2007


Eduard Limonov’s Smrt (Death) will be published in January 2008. Inostranets v smutnoe vremya (A Foreigner in a Time of Troubles) will be published by Amphora Publishing House in early December.

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        Limonov vs. Western Journalists 


Eduard Limonov - 9 Oct. 2007 - The eXile 


I am thinking now that I am working for “Exile” as reporter, 

being in same time active participant and even architect of 

Russian History. Thus, the first Congress of “Other Russia” 

held in Moscow’s Izmailovo Hotel on September 30 was 

planned and executed by Garry Kasparov and me.

As to the idea of participation in the comping Russian  

parliamentary elections it was entirely my idea. I expressed 

that idea two years ago, and steadily, have promoted it

inside of the Other Russia coalition. Finally it was accepted

by my colleagues in the coalition.

On October 1st, Kasparov and me, we visited Central 

Electoral Commission and have handed over the list of 

candidates for elections of deputies of a State Duma.

What I want to say, that I am reporter who is reporting on

activity of Edward Limonov–who is oppositional politician.

Unusual situation, isn’t it?

As to the Western journalists, reporting on activity of

“Other Russia” they see what they want to see. Very

often what they see has nothing to do with reality.

“The Observer” for example, in its article on October

1st, have written such rubbish: “In the past, Limonov

have suffered of alcoholism and have written novels in

the style of Charles Bukowski…Solzhenitsyn with disdain

called him ‘insect’ and called his writing ‘a pornography.’

After living some time in the US, Limonov have founded

in 1994 National-Bolsheviks Party and have called to put

all the liberals in the camps.”

When I read above quoted sentences, I said to myself,

“The men who write it is an idiot. And degree of his

idiocy is exceptional.

Sure, I never suffered of alcoholism, you have mixed me

up with Bush.

Solzhenitsyn never have said anything about me,

although yes, I have attacked Solzhenitsyn in my books

and articles. It was in the past, because Solzhenitsyn

belongs to the past, and in present he is slowly dying of

old age.

I am called by many a best living Russian writer, as such

I have many faces, and I disregard Charles Bukowski as

a boring Californian swine.

The United States is not an example or authority for me.

And I founded National-Bolsheviks Party after 14 years

long stay in Paris, France, not the United States.

But foundation of NBP (no party is banned) has nothing

to do with the US or France, I founded party out of

necessity, for purpose of political struggle. My party is

one of biggest and oldest and most disciplined political

structures in Russia, despite that party is forbidden.

That why Garry Kasparov made an alliance with me. I

never called for putting liberals in the camps, needless

to say.

My voice inside of coalition “Other Russia” is as

important as Kasparov’s. I am forced to say all this

because “The Observer” is not a first foreign publication

publishing idiotic inventions about me. I hope my angry

voice will be heard.

I’m stating: I am reasonable, pragmatic man,

experienced politician, polite as a diplomat. I have child,

young wife. I like French books, red wine, camembert

and especially oysters. I eat with a knife and fork.

What else? I am not a drug addict. I am good looking. I

am not overweight as most of Americans and English.

My fingers are long, my wrists are narrow. I am not a

bald. I know two foreign languages: French and English.

I am able to write in both languages, although with

slight errors. I am brushing my teeth every day.

I have spent 2-1/2 years in prisons, not for stealing or

killing, but for attempt to realize my political ideas. I

wasn’t broken by Russian prisons. No other Russian

politician have prison experience. If one has any

questions to ask, ask, don’t reprint idiotical inventions.

Just ask. Because you look stupid, dear foreigners,

stupid “Observer.”

And another thing: I was married few times to

exceptionally beautiful and talented women. Look at

your ugly wifes, assholes of journalism!

After that angry introduction I am ready to explain what

we are doing in “Other Russia” alliance. By procedure of

“primaries” which the alliance have held in 57 regions

around Russia, we realized democratical right of our

supporters to choose their candidates for the State

Duma elections. The primaries happened in August and

September. Finally on September 30, we have held 1st

Congress of “Other Russia,” where its delegates have

voted for the list of 365 candidates to the State Duma.

The delegates also have voted for the united and only

one candidate of opposition for presidential elections in

March 2008. Garry Kasparov was elected by

overwhelming majority.

On October 1, Kasparov and Limonov followed by

journalists and supporters, have deposited the list of our

365 candidates to hands of member of Central Electoral

Committee, Mister Raikov. Bolshoi Cherkasskii pereulok,

the street where the CEC is located, was surrounded by

forces of OMON and militsia forces. However, they let us

hand in our list. Raikov have promised to discuss our

demand to include our list, which is headed by three

figures: Viktor Geraschenko (former Central Banker),

Garry Kasparov, and Edward Limonov. We understood

that our demand will be rejected, but we wanted to

have an answer. We were challenging the Kremlin. It

was an historical challenge. We were refusing to play at

their dirty game, on that precise day of October 1st.

No matter what answer to our demand we will have, we,

“Other Russia,” will proceed with our electoral campaign.

We will stick leaflets and stickers to the walls of Russian

cities, will hold Marches of Dissenters, will lunch all

possible means of propaganda for our candidates. We

will irritate and challenge authorities up to the

December 2, the day of Duma elections. We will

summon our supporters to vote for the “Other Russia”:

they will be asked to write the letters “DR” (”Drugaya

Rossia” or “Other Russia”) across their ballots. Those

ballots with improper writing on them will be classified

by Electoral Commission as “damaged.” The amount of

damaged ballots will be our electorate: the “Other

Russia” supporters.

Our next steps I will not reveal to you now. In order to

not give the Kremlin time to prepare its forces for

confrontation. You will have some information on

politician Edward Limonov from reporter Edward

Limonov in due time.

Edward Limonov, The Exile