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Expert comments on Russian presidential debate outcome

During the presidential debate, Ksenia Sobchak clashed with LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky who had insulted her using coarse language on air, while Sobchak doused him with water

MOSCOW, March 1. /TASS/. Presidential candidates Sergei Baburin of the Russian All-People’s Union and TV journalist Ksenia Sobchak from the Civil Initiative party were the best at the first Russian presidential TV debate on Wednesday, political expert Vyacheslav Smirnov said on Thursday, adding, however, that all candidates looked dull on the whole.

During the presidential debate broadcast by Rossiya 1 television, Ksenia Sobchak clashed with LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky who had insulted her using coarse language, while Ksenia doused him with water. Later, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin lashed out at the format of the debate, dubbing it an uproar, and left the studio.

"Sobchak and Baburin looked best of all. Sobchak masterfully impersonified the role of a [US] Department of State’s agent, while Baburin posed as an intellectual Russian patriot, which is uncommon," said the director of the Political Sociology Institute.

As for Zhirinovsky, known for his extravagant statements over the years in politics, he was playing his role, the expert said. "He is a professional, but plays only to his voters," Smirnov stressed. "As for Grudinin, this is an ingredient of his character. He cannot readjust and play to the rules, he wants to dominate, and if he fails this he withdraws from the project," the political analyst said. The voters expected "inspiring speeches," while the candidate exercises "an excessive caution," he stressed.

"The candidate must first of all fetch the audience, and if he has managed to catch fancy, it is not that important what he is trying to bring home," Smirnov added. "One can catch fancy only through confidence, aspects of personality and contrast to the opponents. Dull candidates is not the problem of an election, but the problem of the candidates themselves," he summed up.

The presidential election is slated for March 18, 2018. Taking part will be eight candidates: Sergei Baburin (Russian All-People’s Union), Pavel Grudinin (Communist Party of Russia), Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democratic Party), Vladimir Putin (independent), Ksenia Sobchak (Civil Initiative), Maxim Suraikin (Communists of Russia), Boris Titov (Party of Growth) and Grigory Yavlinsky (Yabloko).

Almost 70% of respondents interviewed by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center in the most recent nationwide telephone poll, are ready to support incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin in the upcoming presidential election. "As of February 19-26, 69.1% of Russians are ready to vote for Vladimir Putin," reads the survey, obtained by TASS.

The approval ratings of other presidential candidates are as follows: Pavel Grudinin of the Communist Party - 7.8%, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky - 5.9%, Ksenia Sobchak - 1.6%, Yabloko party founder Grigory Yavlinsky - 0.9%, Sergei Baburin - 0.3%

The ratings of Boris Titov (Party of Growth) and Maxim Suraikin (Communists of Russia) remains unchanged, at 0.3% and 0.1%, respectively.