News / Europe

Moscow's Mayor Refuses to Resign

James Brooke

Moscow's powerful mayor is refusing to resign, resisting direct pressure from Russia's president, the man who has the power on paper to fire him.  

Yuri Luzhkov, a leading political figure in Europe's largest city for more than three decades, is staring down the Kremlin.

On Friday, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told the Moscow mayor to build democracy or join the opposition.

Soon afterward, four national television networks broadcast special news programs attacking Luzhkov.  The first report aired for half an hour in prime time on Friday.  It focused on the successful Moscow real-estate career of the mayor's wife, Yelena Baturina.

Married in 1991, the year before Luzhkov became mayor, Baturina is the richest woman in Russia.  Last month, the Russian edition of Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at $2.9 billion.  The magazine also estimated that the Luzhkov's household income in 2009 was $1 billion.

Last year, British newspapers reported that Baturina had bought a 90-room mansion, London's second largest residence, after Buckingham Palace.  Baturina denied the reports.

Mayor Luzhkov told REN-TV that the weekend television reports were "stupid."  He said his wife "would be even richer, if she had not been the mayor's wife."

On Monday, the mayor and his wife announced that they would sue the four television channels for libel.  Luzhkov has a good track record of winning libel cases before Moscow judges.

Opposition activist Viktor Davidoff says President Medvedev might be using the television campaign to strengthen his hand before trying to fire the mayor.

"He is appointed by the president, which means that he has full right to dismiss the Moscow mayor today or even tomorrow," Davidoff said. "If instead of doing that he launches some kind of media attacks, it indicates that his position is somehow weak."

During the past two years, President Medvedev has forced into retirement almost all of the long-serving regional leaders who took over after the collapse of communism nearly two decades ago.  Luzkhov, who turns 74 years old next week, is the last of these often called "dinosaur governors."

Sometimes seen as out of touch, Luzhkov has been unable to ease Moscow's increasingly paralyzing traffic jams.  In August, when smoke from peat bog fires blanketed the city, he vacationed in the Austrian alps.  On Sunday, in what analysts say is the latest attack on Luzhkov's opponents, Moscow police arrested 30 people demonstrating outside City Hall, three blocks from the Kremlin.

Wearing his trademark, Soviet-style tractor-driver cap, Moscow's mayor has had a loyal following since he entered city politics in 1977.  Last year, he enjoyed 60 percent public approval ratings.  Representing Russia's largest and richest city, he is a co-chairman of the nation's ruling party, United Russia.

Russia is scheduled to hold presidential elections in 18 months.  Some analysts say the television barrage against the Mayor Luzhkov is the opening salvo in the presidential race.

Opposition activist Victor Davidoff says that Moscow will be key to winning the election.

"TV channels and media which support Prime Minister Putin, they keep silent," he said. "So in this case, it is obvious that the Moscow mayor gets support from the prime minister.  So it is basically a conflict between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin."

For months, Moscow politics have been heating up in the public arena.

Opposition journalist Sergei Dorenko long blogged in obscurity, dismissing Mayor Luzhkov as "a billionaire with 100,000 cops."  Friday, Dorenko found himself on prime time, addressing the nation on television.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid