RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – September 29, 2010


TODAY: The fall out from the Luzhkov sacking; political post-mortem underway; a bold move by Medvedev?  New mayor should be in place by end of October.  Estemirova killer apparently identified; Investigative Committee to review cases of journalist murders; Sutyagin interview
Vladimir Putin has commented on the dramatic sacking of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov; emphasizing that in a conflict with the President, the Mayor is subordinate, and should have made the effort to ‘normalize the situation’ in good time.  Apparently the Prime Minister and President are discussing a replacement, who is likely to be appointed by the end of October.  Russian magazine The New Times has reportedly published a letter it claims had been sent by Mr Luzhkov to Mr Medvedev on the eve of his sacking, in which the mayor compares his fate to that of Soviet-era dissidents, and asks the President: ‘How does this stand with your calls for ‘development of democracy?'”  Luzhkov has quit United Russia, the party which he co-founded.  Readers of the Russian-language blog of the New York Times have posted their opinions on Mr. Luzhkov’s reign: praise has been directed towards the improved living standards in Moscow, pension allowances, and teacher’s bonuses, whilst complaints of snarling traffic jams, rampant corruption and the bulldozing of historic sites have also been forwarded; the BBC has a similar vox pop.

The decisive removal of Luzhkov is the biggest evidence of Medvedev’spolitical solvency so far and a major step toward strengthening hisposition ahead of the 2012 presidential election’, says one analyst quoted in the Moscow Times.  ‘Today he made the decision he had to make so he would be more than adecoration’ in the ruling tandem, argues another.  Other commentators are less convinced that the move heralds a strengthening of Medvedev’s position.  The Telegraph suggests that the axing of Luzhkov was quite simply a matter of saving face.  Yulia Latynina argues that Putin’s approval would have been requisite, and ‘far from being a Medvedev victory, expect another public scandal where the president is humiliated.’   Equally, prevarication and ‘a messy compromise over a replacement‘ undermine the President’s power play, a Reuters analysis argues.  Simon Tisdall concurs and uses the event as warning to Russia-friendly British Foreign Secretary William Hague.  If the problem of corruption in the capital is to be extirpated, the charges against the Mayor and his billionaire wife must be followed up with court cases, says Boris Nemtsov.  Independent owner Alexander Lebedev has sent an appeal to authorities in the European Commission and the United Nations to investigate said accusations.

Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin says that the killer of Chechen human rights activist Natalya Estemirova has been found and should be apprehended soon.  Bastrykin has also ordered a review of all cases concerning attacks on journalists.  An Orenburg region resident who was assaulted by policemen in custody in 2001 has been awarded $16,000 by the European Court of Human Rights.

Mikhail Gorbachev has penned an op-ed in the IHT arguing that the notions of ‘reset and partnership’ should give way to an entire ‘reconfiguration of global political relations’.  Scientist Igor Sutyagin has told an interviewer from the Associated Press that he wishes more incarcerated academics he knew could had been freed in the ‘honor-for-freedom’ summer spy swap.

PHOTO: Mayor Yury Luzhkov participating in a friendly football match between government officials in September 2002.  (Igor Tabakov / MT)