Best Column

The Kremlin vs. Moscow's power-mayor

Though Moscow's longtime mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, has had total control over his city for years, says Julia Ioffe in Foreign Policy, he's about to lose it

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, long "one of the Russian state's untouchable saints," has finally fallen from grace, writes Julia Ioffe in Foreign Policy. Luzhkov has held onto his "throne" for 18 years, creating a vast network of underlings who answer only to him and extending his control into every corner of the city's life. "He is Moscow's boss, which is precisely the problem: There can only be one boss in Moscow, and his name is Vladimir Putin." So the Kremlin recently hammered Luzhkov with an almost unprecedented "smear campaign," feeding state TV outlets dirt on Luzhkov's wealthy wife's "crookedly financed construction projects, his lieutenants' Swiss watch collections," and various alleged abuses of power. It looks like this is one fight Luzhkov can't win. Here, an excerpt:

It's no surprise that Luzhkov is finally about to go. President Dmitri Medvedev has been pushing the stodgy, unresponsive old guard of regional government into retirement since the beginning of his term. It is an attempt to head off discontent — and any potential sabotage in the upcoming parliamentary elections. But Luzhkov has ignored what was becoming obvious to everyone: His time was up...

So now what?... A fight like the one that just unfolded is not one that the Kremlin can be seen to lose, which means that Luzhkov has to step down. The Kremlin cannot simply fire him because the Luzhkov machine, woven together not only by money but by family times, is still alive and well, and the state needs it on its side. Making an enemy of Luzhkov and his army would be a disaster, especially when it comes time to vote next fall...

Read the full article at Foreign Policy.

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