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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid