View Full Version : Russia Seems To Be Consolidating Its Power Centrally - Again; Moscow Mayor Sacked!

Peter Lemkin
09-28-2010, 08:17 PM
Medvedev sacks Moscow mayor

By Charles Clover and Isabel Gorst in Moscow

Published: September 28 2010 07:00 | Last updated: September 28 2010 20:18

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, took the risky move of sacking Yuri Luzhkov, the Moscow mayor, one of the few remaining powerful politicians independent of the Kremlin.

Mr Luzhkov, who had held the position since 1992 , withstood weeks of pressure to step down voluntarily. His removal yesterday took Kremlin watchers by surprise, as most had assumed the Kremlin would negotiate Mr Luzhkov’s departure . The mayor had become the target of corruption allegations in state-controlled media after he criticised the president this month.

Yuri Luzhkov was one of the most powerful independent figures remaining in Russian politics

Analysts say the step is a risky one for Mr Medvedev, as it could destabilise both Russia’s capital and the ruling United Russia party, with just a year to go before parliamentary elections. It could also bring him into conflict with Vladimir Putin, prime minister and former president, they say.

But Mr Medvedev, universally regarded as the junior member of Russia’s leadership tandem alongside Mr Putin, could not afford to allow Mr Luzhkov to remain in power, as it would have made him appear weak following Mr Luzhkov’s attack on him, observers said.

The conflict between the president and the mayor blew up this month after Mr Luzhkov, 74, publicly criticised Mr Medvedev’s decision to halt construction of a highway linking Moscow to St Petersburg. He also implied that Mr Putin, who stood down in 2008, should return as president.

Political observers were split on the question of whether Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev might be at odds over the dismissal.

Natalia Timakova, the president’s spokeswoman, said Mr Medvedev had told Mr Putin of the decision in advance.

But publicly, Mr Putin seemed to offer only lukewarm support. He praised Mr Luzhkov’s role in developing Moscow but stressed that the mayor was the president’s subordinate.

Mr Luzhkov “should have made the necessary steps to normalise the situation [with Mr Medvedev],” said Mr Putin. “The president acted in the strictest norms of the law.”

The question of a successor to Mr Luzhkov is a delicate one. Constitutionally, Mr Putin’s United Russia party, which dominates the Moscow city assembly, must nominate three potential replacements, of whom the president must choose one.

Things could get messy if Mr Medvedev sends back United Russia’s list of names, which could end in dissolution of the assembly, though there was no indication yesterday that it would come to this. Vladimir Resin, Mr Luzhkov’s first deputy, becomes acting mayor until a permanent successor is found.

Mr Luzhkov made no public remarks after learning of his dismissal after arriving at his office at 8am but Vladimir Platonov, speaker of the assembly, said he would remain in politics.

However, the former mayor resigned from United Russia, saying in a letter that he had been the victim of a smear campaign. “These attacks were part of a campaign to drive the mayor of Moscow from the political arena,” he said.