Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Fighting Mayor of Moscow

Yuri LuzhkovImage via Wikipedia
On a light note, your blogger has been reading the gossip pages of the Russian print media (no access to state controlled TV) and following the Luzhkov Chronicles.

This guy has been around for as long as I can remember. I actually was there when his predecessor – a very forgettable fellow and why his name escapes me – was in power. Luzhkov has been the powerful, contentious, outspoken mayor of Moscow for almost two decades. Now he seems to be on the way out.

The Kremlin wants him to go. He says he intends to stay until his term expires in mid-2011. The Kremlin reminded him that he is appointed and can be removed by the Kremlin. Others have noted that, indeed, the Kremlin can fire him. But, unfortunately they need a reason. Fire him without a reason and the political campaign could be adversely affected as he is not short on popularity.

Putin is his friend. Medvedev is not. Putin and Medvedev are partners and Luzhkov has been doing his very verbal best to divide the two. After taking a not-so-subtle shot at the Kremlin after he was told to resign and refused, Luzhkov announced last week that he was heading on vacation to Austria.

Except his wife took over. Yelena Baturina is anything but subtle. She tends to name names. She is Russia's richest woman, making her fortune as the head of a construction equipment manufacturer. She has always stayed out of the public eye. Until now.

Her husband's fight with the Kremlin and the media onslaught unleashed on him by every major national broadcaster has brought her out of the closet. Using slightly less vague and diplomatic language and naming names, Baturina accused the Kremlin of orchestrating the media's smear campaign against her husband. This is a blinding grasp of the obvious, but nevertheless something that is usually uttered in subdued locations over tea. She said that there are people "who fear that in the 2012 presidential campaign, Luzhkov will back Prime Minister Vladimir Putin over President Dmitry Medvedev."

And who said politics in Russia was predictable?
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