Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday fired Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov in a decisive push to oust the remaining regional powerbrokers of the Boris Yeltsin era.
Mr. Luzhkov was Russia's most powerful and longest serving regional leader, appointed to the post by Mr. Yeltsin in 1992. He became the latest victim of Mr. Medvedev's campaign to replace old cadres in the regions. Since he took the office of President over two years ago, he removed a dozen entrenched regional bosses, including the Presidents of the predominantly Muslim republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortastan.
All of them stepped down voluntarily, but Mr. Luzhkov (74), refused to tender his resignation. He was fired “in connection with loss of the Russian President's confidence”, said Mr. Medvedev's decree. The President said he would appoint a successor.
Mr. Luzhkov's dismissal appeared to be a joint decision of Mr. Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the ruling tandem seeks to consolidate financial resources ahead of the next round of parliamentary and presidential campaigns beginning next year. The duo said they would take a consolidated decision who of them will run for presidency in 2012.
Mr. Luzhkov oversaw the transformation of the Russian capital from a gray Soviet-era city into a glitzy showcase of Russia's new capitalism, which generates 24 per cent of Russia's Gross Domestic Product. However, the uncontrolled construction of malls, offices and high-rise apartment houses, has destroyed much of Moscow's historic heritage and left city with appalling traffic jams and rapidly deteriorating ecological situation.
Mr. Luzhkov has been accused of massive corruption as his wife, Yelena Baturina, has emerged during his rule as Russia's only woman billionaire.
A defiant Mr. Luzhkov said after dismissal he would fight for restoring the right of Moscovites to elect their Mayor. Elections of regional leaders were scrapped by Mr. Putin in 2004.
If Mr. Luzhkov decides to stay in politics he could become a rallying figure for the opposition.
Keywords: Russia politics