Angry Medvedev fires Moscow mayor
Yuri Luzhkov: dismissed as mayor after angering the Kremlin
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev sacked one of the country's most powerful politicians yesterday in an attempt to prove he was not a puppet of Vladimir Putin.
One of the most high-profile politicians to emerge from the ashes of the Soviet Union, Yuri Luzhkov (74) had been Moscow's mayor since 1992 and was a senior figure in Mr Putin's United Russia party.
He was a household name in Russia, in part due to his marriage to Elena Baturina, the country's richest woman.
Mr Luzhkov angered the Kremlin earlier this month when he criticised Mr Medve- dev in an article it regarded as treasonous.
In it, Mr Luzhkov called for the government to "recover its true authority", a phrase that was interpreted as a coded call for Mr Putin, the current prime minister, to return to the presidency in 2012.
The question of whether Mr Putin or Mr Medvedev will stand for the presidency in 2012 is highly sensitive. Analysts said Mr Medvedev, who has struggled to emerge from Mr Putin's shadow, was worried he risked looking like a lame duck with a year and a half of his presidency still to run unless he took action against Mr Luzhkov.
Mr Medvedev also announced that he would decide who would be appointed to the role of Moscow mayor and is expected to use the appointment to shore up his position.
"The whole situation around Luzhkov's firing shows that the vertical of power does not work like it ought to," Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst said. "When everyone understood who the master of the house was, Putin, with a small grin, allowed one of the players to be taken out of the game."
A spokesman for Mr Medvedev, who was in China on an official visit, said he had lost patience with Mr Luzhkov.
"It is hard to imagine a situation in which (Mr Luzhkov) and the president . . . continue to work together when the president has lost confidence in the regional leader," Mr Medvedev said. His spokesman explained that Mr Luzhkov was now merely "a simple citizen".
"There are two ways for a leader to leave his post," he said. "Either to resign or for the president to take the decision, harshly citing a loss of trust. Draw your own conclusions."
All eyes will now be on who President Medvedev appoints. If the job is given to someone in Mr Putin's entourage, Mr Medvedev's hopes of serving a second term will look slim. (© Daily Telegraph, London)