VLADIMIR ZHIRINOVSKY told a laughing audience this week that he does not need to stage a coup to conquer the Kremlin.
The flamboyant ultranationalist is so convinced he will become the next Russian president that he has resisted any attempts to be drawn into a possible coalition with like-minded parties.
Conspicuous by its absence, Mr. Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party is the only opposition group in parliament's lower house that has refused to join the ``Accord for Russia'' movement conceived by leaders hostile to President Boris Yeltsin's economic reforms; among them is a potential presidential electoral rival, former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi.
``What do we have in common with the bloc? They say they're going to become the biggest parliamentary faction? Let them try!'' Zhirinovsky declared last week in the State Duma as he maneuvered his way through a crowd.
``Only the weak form blocs. When no type of independent organization exists, you get all sorts of coalitions, blocs, unions, and associations, and then everything collapses,'' he said, pushing into a packed elevator.
``The Soviet Union collapsed because it was weak. Now there is only one single state - Russia - and the Soviet Union no longer exists. That's why we won't join with anyone,'' he said.
Despite the bravado, Zhirinovsky's party has been subject to speculations of a possible split within its ranks, and several prominent figures in the party have left or publicly complained of Zhirinovsky's antics and dictatorial behavior. But he has denied that any threat to his leadership exists.
Amid rumors of a possible putsch against Mr. Yeltsin, Zhirinovsky said Tuesday that Anatoly Chubais, deputy prime minister in charge of privatization, was partially correct when he told the British Broadcasting Corporation that Zhirinovsky was plotting against Yeltsin.
``We are not preparing any coups, the doors are just open for us,'' Zhirinovsky told a news conference. ``We received a pass to the Kremlin on Dec. 12. That's all we need.''
Zhirinovsky's outrageous views on everything from reclaiming Alaska to threatening enemies with nuclear war won him nearly a quarter of the votes in December's parliamentary elections.
Despite his calls to reclaim Finland as part of Russia, next week he is expected to visit Helsinki as part of an official parliamentary delegation arranged by the 32-nation Council of Europe, to which Russia has applied for membership.