Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has been trying out all kinds of bizarre strategies to avoid getting the boot from the Kremlin – even leaving his billionaire wife Yelena Baturina home alone to run the defense campaign while he relaxes in Austria. In addition to the much discussed article by Baturina in the opposition media outlet The New Times (which at one point compared their persecution to that of Khodorkovsky). Things are looking more and more desperate for the Luzhkovs after the second straight week of attack “documentaries” aired on state-controlled media, leaving them to resort to the classic tried-and-failed strategy of attempting to drive a wedge between Putin and Medvedev with the hope of sliding by under a larger power struggle. It’s not so much that Luzhkov and Baturina have suddenly discovered their inner dissidents, but rather they are going to the only media that might carry their story.
Blogging at The Moscow Diaries, Julie Ioffe has translated the text of an apparent birthday card sent to Luzhkov by Vladimir Putin, which has conveniently been “leaked” and picked up by Echo Moskvy. The interpretation of the greeting card is a whole other matter:
The most important phrase here is ответственная работа, which I’ve translated as “important work,” but more precisely means “work that carries big responsibilities.” Luzhkov’s people will probably spin this as meaning that Putin thinks the mayor is doing fine as mayor and that he will therefore not lose his job. My take, however, is that this is simply some fulsome bullshit to grease Luzhkov into a new job the Kremlin wants to convince him is just as important. The talk now, after all, is of Luzhkov taking a new job, not simply retiring.