Summary: Medvedev sacks Luzhkov
MOSCOW. Sept 28 (Interfax) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday morning issued a decree dismissing Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who has held the post for the past 18 years, due to a "loss of confidence."
In the decree, First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Resin was named acting mayor. He is chairing today's meeting of the Moscow city government, an Interfax correspondent reported from City Hall.
Resin later said that he received a copy of Medvedev's decree dismissing Luzhkov.
The Moscow government will continue performing its duties until a replacement is nominated and approved by Medvedev, a City Hall source told Interfax.
"All members of the Moscow Cabinet, including the prefects of the administrative districts, will continue working as acting heads of their respective offices," he said.
In line with the established procedure, the Moscow government will step down after the new mayor is appointed, the source said.
"The mayor to be upheld by the city legislature will confirm the staff of the Moscow Cabinet and make appointments," he said.
Medvedev's decision came following a recent string of dismissals of long-standing governors, with Kalmykia's President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiyev having recently been dismissed.
Medvedev's decree on the dismissal of the Moscow mayor is as follows:
"Pursuant of Sub-Point 'G' of Point 1 and Sub-Point 'A' of Point 9 of Article 19 of the Federal Law on the General Principles of Organizing Legislative (Representative) and Executive Bodies of Authority in the Constituent Territories of the Russian Federation, passed on October 6 1999, I hereby decree to remove Yury Luzhkov from the office of Moscow mayor over loss of confidence," Medvedev writes in his decree.
"I hereby decree to appoint Vladimir Resin as acting mayor pending entry into office of a person, vested with the powers of the Moscow mayor," Medvedev writes.
The decree takes effect the day it is signed.
Explaining reasons for Luzhkov's dismissal, Medvedev said that the wording of his decree dismissing Luzhkov - "over the loss of the president's confidence" - exhaustively explains the reasons for his decision.
"The reason follows from the decree itself. As the president of Russia, I lost confidence in Yury Luzhkov as the mayor of Moscow," he told the press in Shanghai.
"It is difficult to imagine a situation in which a governor and the president of Russia as the top official would continue working together, if the president loses confidence in the head of the region."
A source on the presidential administration told journalists that Medvedev informed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about his decision to dismiss Luzhkov before signing the corresponding decree.
Medvedev also did not rule out that the dismissal of more regional governors and leaders may follow due to "loss of trust" following the firing of Luzhkov.
"I have used this wording for the first time today," Medvedev, who is currently on an official visit to Shanghai, told reporters.
"I have done this for the first time, but I don't rule out that this will be done again," he said.
According to Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova, Medvedev is not planning to meet with Luzhkov.
Timakova also said that, "Luzhkov was on vacation, earlier agreed with the presidential administration, to think about what he would do next," she said.
There are two options for a regional leader's stepping down from his post ahead of time - a resignation, or dismissal by the president for the rigorous reason of loss of confidence," Timakova said.
A day earlier after returning from a week vacation in Austria, Luzhkov said that he was not planning to offer his resignation. "I am not going to resign," Luzhkov said.
Luzhkov's farewell letter
Sacked Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov also sent a letter to the leadership of the ruling United Russia party to say that he is leaving the party shortly after the dismissal, a source at the Moscow mayor's office told Interfax.
"I have been subjected to violent attacks from the state-owned media recently as a member of the bureau of the party's Supreme Council," the source quoted the letter as saying.
"The attacks stemmed from the aim of removing the Moscow mayor from the political arena and stripping him of his powers ahead of time. For over a month, I was subject to wild harassment that went beyond the limits of decency and common sense," the letter says.
Luzhkov said that there were no objective reasons for the media campaign.
"United Russia, its top bodies did not offer any support to their member, did not demonstrate any willingness to look into things and stop the flow of lies and slander," he said.
Luzhkov expressed gratitude to the Moscow chapter of United Russia which he led since its foundation in 2001.
"Unlike the federal organization, the Moscow chapter of United Russia the same as numerous other public organizations resolutely supported the Moscow mayor in the present circumstances," the letter says.
"Given the above I ask not to be considered a member of United Russia any longer," Luzhkov, a founding member of the party, stated in his letter.
The United Russia party's leadership confirmed that they have received a letter from Luzhkov on his withdrawal from the party.
"Yes, the letter arrived on Tuesday," head of the United Russia party's Central Executive Committee Andrei Vorobyov told Interfax.
In accordance with the charter, Luzhkov's request for withdrawal from the party may be granted automatically.
"The charter envisions automatic expulsion of a party member at his own request. But in high-profile cases, the decision is made by the presidium of the General Council, or the Supreme Council," Vorobyov said.
He did not say what procedure the party would choose in Luzhkov's case.
Luzhkov also appeared to avoid publicity on his dismissal. He will not hold "a farewell" press conference on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the dismissed Moscow mayor said. "The reports are mere rumors," the spokesperson said.
Luzhkov will also cancel his appearance on the Face to the City program on TVTs tv channel, which is closely linked to the Moscow authorities, on Tuesday evening, as was agreed.
Meanwhile, a source at City Hall who had talked to Luzhkov early on Tuesday told Interfax that the ex-Moscow mayor does not plan to live abroad following his dismissal.
The dismissal of Luzhkov seems to have little economic consequences. Medvedev's decision did not impact the Russian stock market, while Standard & Poor's Rating Agency said in a press release that the dismissal will not have an immediate impact on the Russian capital's credit ratings. However S&P said it might potentially take some rating actions with respect to the city if its financial policy alters to any great extent.
On the other hand, Luzhkov's dismissal caused a wide public discussion, with all Russia's leading political parties and analysts welcoming Medvedev's decision.
Senior member of the United Russia Party and State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov, regrets that Luzhkov provided reasons to be fired.
"We proceed [from the belief] that the head of state had reasons for the decision and unfortunately Luzhkov as a mayor gave the president cause for such a decision," the press service of United Russia faction in the State Duma quotes him as saying.
Gryzlov confirmed that the issue of the Moscow mayor was raised at the September 23 meeting of the leadership of United Russia with Medvedev even though there were other items on the agenda - nominations to the posts of heads of Tyumen region and the Republic of Mordovia.
"We could not help raising one more issue - the position of the Moscow mayor. The president expressed his approach," he said.
Today the president "made the final decision to prematurely dismiss the Moscow mayor," he added.
It was the right of Medvedev to fire Luzhkov, Nikolai Levichev, head of the Just Russia faction, said.
"The president was absolutely correctly by denying confidence to the mayor of the capital city," Levichev told Interfax.
"His [Luzhkov's] recent behavior, his comments, the interview of his wife [business tycoon Yelena Baturina] all became a challenge not so much to the authorities as to public morals and civil society," he said.
Levichev said that an increasing number of decisions and steps taken by Luzhkov annoyed Moscow residents.
"In the elections of the Moscow City Duma we faced administrative pressure that exceeded all normal borders. As for the urban development policy of the Moscow authorities, it aroused the discontent of a significant number of Muscovites," he said.
"The voice of the enraged public was heard," Levichev added.
Sergei Mironov, head of the upper house of Russia's parliament and the Just Russia leader, said on Tuesday that the dismissal of Luzhkov as Moscow mayor did not come as a surprise.
"Yury Luzhkov's dismissal was predictable. The Alpine air must have played a dirty trick on Yury Luzhkov. If he had stepped down earlier, before [demolitions of homes at] the Rechnik [neighborhood of Moscow], Muscovites would have set up a monument to him in his lifetime. Now he has to go for the tough reason of 'loss of the president's trust,'" Mironov told journalists.
Mironov said that he thinks Luzhkov will now retire: "He will recall his time in the Alpine meadows and he will probably go back there. With the president's tough wording and given his age, he cannot remain a civil servant."
"I think he can only retire on a pension," he said.
In his opinion, the main problem of Yury Luzhkov was that "an oligarch took the upper hand over a solid manager" in him.
"That is very lamentable and sad," he added.
In Mironov's opinion Luzhkov's dismissal "of course had an impact on the United Russia party's rating, which continues to go down."
Luzhkov is not a rank-and-file member of the United Russia party, but is one of its top leaders, he said, adding that, "a drop in the party's rating will influence the party's results in regional elections on October 10."
The dismissal of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov is a landmark event, Ivan Melnikov, first deputy chairman of the Communist Party Central Committee and State Duma deputy speaker said.
"What happened today opens up a certain new stage in the development of the country's political system which still has to be deeply analyzed," he told Interfax on Tuesday.
Melnikov admitted that numerous problems have accumulated in Moscow but said that Luzhkov alone cannot be blamed for them.
"It is important to understand that the vices that are spoken of in relation to Moscow are not the result of only Luzhkov's policies, these are vices of the capitalist system," he said.
"The dismissal to a lesser extent is an attempt to resolve these problems but to a greater extent an attempt to use them in settling scores between different influential forces within the authorities. The justification - "over the loss of confidence"- is a reflection of this clash," Melnikov said.
He said that the Communist Party disapproves of the methods that "the conflicting sides used during the media war over Luzhkov."
Melnikov also believes that "the possibility of a city referendum on the issue of confidence in the mayor could have been considered at a certain stage but Muscovites have been barred from the possibility of running their own city a long time ago."
"This amounts to the impossibility of electing the mayor and the unprecedented arbitrariness in the elections to the Moscow City Duma," he said.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and State Duma deputy speaker, expressed full support for Medvedev's decision to dismiss Luzhkov.
"The Liberal Democratic Party fully supports this presidential decree," Zhirinovsky, now on a working visit in Chelyabinsk, told Interfax.
Zhirinovsky recalled that addressing students at Moscow State University in 2005, Luzhkov said he would resign and that Moscow would get a new mayor in December 2007. "So what? December 2008 is over, December 2009 is over too, now it is September 2010 and Luzhkov still didn't fulfill his promise, so the president had to make the decision for him," Zhirinovsky said.
He called the decision of the president positive and saw it as a sign of real change in the personnel policy of the top echelons of power.
A leading pro-Kremlin Russian analyst said that President Dmitry Medvedev's decision to fire Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov is the first concrete step to bring under control what some have described as a corrupt system.
"This decree is absolutely clear-cut and robust, which is partially because Luzhkov had been trying to test the president's will and see whether he would be strong enough to make such a step," said Gleb Pavlovsky, head of the Effective Politics Foundation, a think-tank that works with the Kremlin.
"Luzhkov's dismissal is a clear signal from Medvedev that he is serious about the anti-corruption program, which was not duly understood in the regions," he told Interfax.
"Everyone knows what the judiciary system in Moscow has become, and journalists are afriad to write about corruption in Moscow," Pavlovsky said.
"All this indicates that we are entering a very serious political period. Again, previously everyone was only talking about the fight against corruption. Now the first resolute step has been made," he said.
The wording of the reason for the dismissal points to further steps that will inevitably be made," Pavlovsky said.
"Loss of trust is a legal wording, not an emotional splash. Of course, Luzhkov may try and challenge it. But then public court hearings into his activities will follow, recovering outrageous facts that will finally ruin any respect for him. I would be cautious in Luzhkov's place," Pavlovsky said.
Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev, who ran for mayor in Moscow in 2003, welcomes Yury Luzhkov's dismissal after losing the trust of the Russian president.
"The wording of the reason for the dismissal carries an exhaustive assessment of the results of his work. Such a decision by the tandem - I am convinced, the decision was made by the tandem of the president and prime minister - may signal the beginning of real fight against corruption in the country," Lebedev told Interfax on Tuesday.
He said he had been campaigning against the phenomenon, dubbed "Luzhkovshchina", not with concrete people.
"What matters to me is that the new mayor and the new city manager are honest and professional people," Lebedev said.
Opinion polls indicate that Russians are divided over how effective Luzhkov was as Moscow mayor.
In a poll taken by the VTsIOM polling agency from September 18-19 on 1,600 adults in 140 towns and cities, 34% believed he had failed to resolve the city's major problems and had even made them worse, while 33% called him an effective manager, with 34% undecided.
Luzhkov was praised mainly by people living in the Central Federal District and the North Caucasus as well as supporters of the Communist Party and Just Russia, while supporters of the Liberal Democratic party and residents in southern Russia held the opposite opinion.
The poll indicated that Russians found Luzhkov resolute (62%), energetic (61%), competent (55%) and well educated (52%). Respondents tended to call him friendly (43%) and intelligent (38%).
At the same time, 49% of Russians believe he was corrupt and 48% cunning.
The United Russia party is preparing to submit nominations for the post of Moscow mayor to the president, Secretary of the Presidium of the party's General Council Vyacheslav Volodin announced.
"In compliance with the federal law, we are preparing nominations for the post of Moscow mayor," Volodin said in a statement, posted on the party's website on Tuesday.
Gryzlov already advised the leadership of the Moscow chapter of the party to start selecting nominees to the post of Moscow mayor.
"The regional chapter should start discussing nominations to the post of Moscow mayor that will be then submitted to the president," Gryzlov told Yelena Panina, secretary of the political council of the Moscow chapter, the press service of United Russia faction in the State Duma reports.
According to Panina, the United Russia party will soon begin consultations on nominations for the Moscow mayor.
"The president has made his decision and we are not going to discuss it. It was his legitimate right. We will start consultations on nominations for Moscow mayor soon," Panina said on Tuesday, according to the party's website.
Panina also said that the social policy would hopefully remain unchanged in Moscow after Luzhkov's dismissal.
"We hope the same social policy will be pursued. It is very important that people understand that," she also said.
Mironov thinks that that the nomination of the new Moscow mayor by United Russia will be a formality.
"United Russia will nominate candidates to the post of Moscow mayor in line with current legislation, of course, but it will be a pure formality because the issue will be decided by the head of state after consultations with the prime minister," Mironov told journalists.
He stressed that "it is vital not to make a mistake" in choosing the successor given Moscow's status.
"The new mayor will have to correct what was done before him. Probably one should think of the future mayor holding the post of deputy premier and having the duties and responsibilities corresponding to the functions that Moscow performs," he said.
The United Russia party will propose nominations for the post of Moscow mayor within two weeks, head of the United Russia Central Executive Committee Andrei Vorobyov told Interfax.
"Moscow will have a new mayor. This procedure is regulated by a federal law, in accordance with which we will hold consultations within 14 days and submit at least three nominations to the president," Vorobyov said.
In a statement posted on the United Russia website Director of the Political and Economic Communications Agency, Dmitry Orlov is quoted as saying that Deputy Prime Minister and government office head Sergei Sobyanin is the most likely nominee for the post of Moscow mayor.
"Sobyanin and Kozhin [the Kremlin property manager] are the most likely nominees. Who of them will be appointed is to be decided by the president," he said.
Yury Luzhkov was born in Moscow on September 21, 1936. He gradated from the Moscow Gubkin Institute of the Petrochemical and Gas Sector in 1958. His working career started in 1958 as deputy head of a lab at the Plastic Mass Research Institute. In 1975 he was elected deputy head of the Babushkin district council. In 1977 he became Deputy Moscow City Council. In June 1992, he was appointed Moscow mayor after Gavriil Popov's resignation. Luzhkov was in power in Moscow for 18 years.