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Former Klan Leader Meets Zhirinovsky

September 27, 1995 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ It’s a mutual admiration society: David Duke, a former Klan leader, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russia’s most strident ultranationalist.

``Zhirinovsky once called me his favorite American politician,″ Duke said Wednesday. He laughed. ``I don’t know if it’s a compliment or not.″

The Louisiana Republican said he met with Zhirinovsky for more than an hour Tuesday. He said they have a lot in common.

``We’re nationalists,″ he said. ``And Zhirinovsky is very protective of what you might call the white race.″

Duke came to Moscow seeking help for a Louisiana missionary, Charles Songe, who is in trouble with provincial Russian authorities for alleged currency violations. He has been under house arrest since May in Saransk, Russia.

``Zhirinovsky promised to do everything in his power to help,″ Duke said.

Songe apparently didn’t appreciate Duke’s effort.

``He’s frankly worried to death about it,″ said Ken Johnson, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., who is working to obtain Songe’s release.

Johnson said he called Songe to tell him about Duke’s presence.

``We are well on our way to resolving this matter diplomatically. The last thing we need is for a cowboy to get involved and upset this delicate balance in the negotiations,″ Johnson said Wednesday.

``If David Duke messes this up, then maybe our next offer will be a prisoner exchange _ Duke for Songe.″

Leonty Arkhipov, a spokesman for the Russian nationalist, said Zhirinovsky ``would do his best to free Mr. Songe.″

Arkhipov described the meeting as ``warm, friendly″ and said the two politicians ``discussed many issues concerning Russian-American relations.″

Zhirinovsky is a master at the politics of racism, which Duke once practiced as head of the Louisiana Ku Klux Klan. Zhirinovsky promotes a vision of a Slavic, Orthodox Christian Russia with its imperial borders restored. He often threatens to have his enemies deported or shot, and is famous for brawling in the halls of parliament.

After a stint as a Louisiana state legislator, Duke ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1990, for governor in 1991 and in the state’s GOP presidential primary in 1992. He said he plans to run for the Senate again in 1996.

Zhirinovsky is a former presidential candidate and plans to run again next year.