News / Europe

Former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov Leaves Mixed Legacy

TEXT SIZE - +

A few days ago, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev fired Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

Luzhkov was one of the most influential politicians in modern day, post-Soviet Russia. During his 18 years as Moscow's mayor, he transformed Russia's capital from a shabby, crumbling city, to an attractive Western style metropolis.

Robert Legvold, Russia expert at Columbia University, describes some of the major projects initiated by Luzhkov.

"It is a glittering city with glamorous shopping malls and with shopping facilities not just for the very rich but for the middle class - burgeoning numbers of shopping malls in and around the city that match anything you see in the West, in the U.S. or elsewhere," he said. "The city itself has been painted and improved. There has been an effort to do something about the traffic congestion by adding a peripherique, that is a circle road within Moscow."

But Legvold says even though Muscovites are now proud of their city,  not everyone has agreed with Mayor Luzhkov's decisions.

"Environmentalists or preservationists are upset that some important buildings or parts of Moscow have been torn down to put up high-rise, glass steel structures," he said. "But it is now a world class city. It is also one of the world's most expensive cities - normally it ranks either number one or number two in the world."

Many of the infrastructure projects were done by Inteko, a construction company headed by Luzhkov's wife, Elena Baturina, considered by Forbes magazine to be the third richest woman in the world.

"She's head of a construction company, but this construction company works for the city," said
David Satter, who is with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "And these contracts are notorious - especially anything to do with infrastructure in Russia is notoriously corrupt. And she's benefited from that. In order to do business with the city, there's a whole system of bribery that is in place, with bribes being passed up from one level to the next and ultimately reaching the mayor's office - and this is well-known in Moscow. It used to be said of Luzhkov, in his favor, that of course he steals, but he doesn't steal everything - he leaves a little bit for the city. And this, by Russian standards, was considered to be quite commendable."

For years, corruption allegations followed Luzhkov and Baturina - but the two consistently denied them. In addition, they have never been formally charged.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev (file)
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev (file)

Just a few days ago, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev fired Luzhkov saying the Moscow mayor "lost the confidence of the president" - a decision that was backed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Analysts say it is difficult to determine the real reasons for Luzhkov's dismissal, but they point to several recent events that might have precipitated the decision.

Robert Legvold says a botched construction project on the road to Moscow's main Sheremetyevo airport created huge traffic jams during the summer. Luzhkov was criticized for that and some Russian officials felt he wanted to divert traffic to the city-controlled airport, Domodedovo.

"You had more recently the peat bog fires, the forest fires in the context of the heat wave in August - and he [Luzhkov] stayed on vacation and was seen as essentially an absentee leader who was not responsive and was criticized for that," he said. "As Putin and Medvedev grew increasingly impatient with him, they had unleashed the national media, the television media which certainly does their bidding, had begun broadcasting negative stories about both Luzhkov and Baturina, his wife."

But Legvold and others say Luzhkov sealed his fate in a September newspaper interview in Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Without naming Medvedev, he questioned the president's authority and depicted him as a man of all talk and no action. He also criticized Medvedev for halting construction of a superhighway through forests north of Moscow.

"So at that point, I think it was clear that for Medvedev, that if he didn't do something, he would really be seen as very weak if he couldn't do anything," Levgold said.

First Luzhkov was urged to resign. But when he refused, Medvedev fired him.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid