Reactions to the Dismissal of Mayor Luzhkov

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Moscow’s mayor of eighteen years, Yury Luzhkov, has been fired. On Tuesday morning, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev issued an order to dismiss the mayor immediately, due to a “loss of confidence.” Luzhkov reportedly learned of the order through the media, and left his office with no comment in the evening.

He did, however, announce his resignation from United Russia – the country’s leading political party, head by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In a written statement, the now ex-mayor said that he had been “subjected to a fierce attack by the state mass media” and “savage harassment,” which “were connected with the task of eliminating the mayor of Moscow from the political arena.” He then blamed United Russia for “not giving a member of the party any kind of support; [the party] did not demonstrate any desire to deal with and put a stop to the stream of lies and slander.”

Then, on late Tuesday, an entirely unexpected document was published by the opposition-leaning newspaper the New Times: a scathing letter from Luzhkov to President Medvedev, accusing the latter of “informational terror” and intentional slander, among other things. The harassment, he says, stemmed from two of Luzhkov’s letters concerning the Khimki Forest controversy that were published earlier this month. But the letters, in which Luzhkov backtracked on his original decision to stand with Medvedev in opposition to the forest’s destruction, were “not a reason, but an excuse” to get rid of him, Luzhkov asserts. “The task has been set: Get rid of him. The excuse is found. Act!” says the letter.

The Kremlin had already made about as much clear through a whisper campaign of anonymous tipsters to the Moscow press over the past month, as well as a propaganda campaign run through the state-run media. Denouncing Luzhkov’s Khimki letters as an attempt to drive a wedge between the president and the prime minister, one Kremlin source noted that “it’s obvious that such attempts will not go without corresponding reactions.”

According to Luzhkov’s latest letter, the president’s administration had already told the mayor on September 17 about the decision to fire him due to loss of confidence. Apparently, Luzhkov was asked to resign voluntarily the next day, but when it was clear that wasn’t going to happen, he was given an extra week to think it over. When Luzhkov returned to his office on Monday morning and announced that he wasn’t going anywhere, he already knew what was going to happen the next day.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has translated the text of the letter in full., which hosts the original, has been suffering from bandwidth overload since the letter went online.

Prime Minister Putin said he agrees with Medvedev’s decision, and, as he is wont to do, stressed that it was made in strict accordance with the law. “It’s perfectly obvious that the relationship between the mayor of Moscow and the president didn’t work out, and anyway, the mayor is a subordinate of the president, not the other way around,” Putin said.

Several opposition activists were detained outside the mayor’s office on Tuesday evening, including one Other Russia member who attempted to unfurl a banner reading “Luzhkov, as you leave, break the fence.” The fence in question referred to the recently-erected barrier blocking off Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square, where oppositionists gather on the 31st of each month to hold rallies in defense of free assembly as part of the Strategy 31 campaign. About 50 demonstrators were present outside the mayor’s office in total, including members of Solidarity, Yabloko, and the United Civil Front.

Here is a sampling of reactions from Russian analysts and oppositionists on Medvedev’s monumental decision:

Boris Nemtsov, Solidarity Co-Leader and Former Deputy Prime MinisterBoris Nemtsov thumb. Source: SPS website

This morning, D. Medvedev, for the first time, performed a truly presidential deed. He fired Luzhkov as a result of a loss of confidence.

This is the first case where Dmitri Anatolevich has clearly acted independently.

The conflict between Medvedev and Luzhkov was advantageous for Putin, but the removal of a corrupt civil servant is extremely undesirable, as his system of power breaks down.

It’s the first time that there’s been a dismissal due to loss of confidence without having criminal suits filed or obvious city cataclysms.

If criminal suits for corruption don’t show up after this dismissal, then the dismissal is going to look unconvincing, and Luzhkov has a clear political future…

In short, in the run-up to 2011-2012, Luzhkov will offer up more than a few surprises.

So whether or not Dmitri Anatolevich likes it, criminal suits are going to have to be filed.

Otherwise we’re going to have yet another unexpected candidate for president.

Stanislav Belkovsky thumb. Source: Gzt.ruStanislav Belkovsky, Political Analyst

What should have happened has happened. Luzhkov is done with, although Yury Mikhailovich himself firmly believed that he was going to survive the latest try after seven previous unsuccessful attempts to remove him. For me, as a Muscovite voter, who the new mayor is going to be is totally unimportant. For me, it’s obvious that Luzhkov’s dismissal is not a political project, but an economic one. There are no politics here, because Luzhkov didn’t block Kremlin policy. He didn’t interfere in the process of determining a nominee for president in the 2012 elections, and a year and a half later would have supported any, or the only, candidate named by the Kremlin. The political character [of the dismissal] is very contrived.

The fact is that the federal financial-industrial groups decided to take Moscow for themselves, because they have long considered it unjust that these gigantic economic resources are being managed by a person from the past, who is organically disconnected from the contemporary federal elite. However, Vladimir Putin, who governed under the unofficial slogan “don’t make a splash,” that is to say don’t violate such hard-won socio-political stability – he was afraid to fire Luzhkov. And Dmitri Medvedev, as the famous Chinese proverb says it – “a newly born calf doesn’t fear a tiger,” the president, who doesn’t remember how it is when there’s instability, when there’s chaos, who is used to stability, came to this radical decision…

It’s possible that the new mayor, in the first months of his rule, will take a few relatively popular steps in order to win Muscovites’ trust… But the new mayor is not going to be interested in dismantling Luzhkov’s system. His task is to get control of this system and even strengthen it. Therefore, corruption in the city will remain and even grow.

Eduard Limonov, Other Russia Party Leader and Strategy 31 Co-OrganizerEduard Limonov. Source:

So they’ve gotten rid of the mayor!

Look out the window into the streets; can you see tanks? Luzhkov’s division hasn’t appeared?

I don’t think it’s going to appear…

I’ll see very soon whether or not the attitude of the Moscow courts toward the conflict on Triumfalnaya is going to change. On September 30, the Tverskoy Court is going to decide (for the second time) the fate of our suit (Alexeyeva, Kosyakin, Limonov) against the Moscow government concerning the rally on December 31, 2009.

On October 5, Justice Zaytsev will decide my personal fate as an organizer of the rally on August 31 of this year.

On October 6, the Moscow City Court will decide the fate of our suit (Alexeyeva, Kosyakin, Limonov) against the Moscow government regarding the July 31 rally.

So we’ll see.

Anton Orekh. Source: Moskva.fmAnton Orekh, Journalist, Ekho Moskvy Radio

This is what I want them to understand.

Moscow is a separate state. They say this about Moscow often, striving to underline how it gets fat at the expense of the rest of the country…

And few would find it simpler to govern Moscow than to govern the rest of Russia. And if the comrades from Leningrad think that this isn’t so, then they’re mistaken. And if they think that their friends from some kind of cooperative or their messmates from their school department can deal with the management of a separate country, they they’re also mistaken.

We shouldn’t be naive.

You’re not going to create freedom or democracy in Moscow by itself. There can’t be an honest capital in a larcenous country. If there’s no justice here, there won’t be any in Whitestone.

Whatever kind of mayor we get, he’s going to have to govern Moscow by the same rules that work in the entire rest of the territory of Russia, albeit Moscow and Russia are different countries.