Forget Luzhkov: bulldogs under the carpet again

The struggle between Moscow’s mayor Luzhkov and President Medvedev has gripped Russia. What are those’ bulldogs under the carpet’ really fighting about? There are bigger battles going on, explains Vladimir Pastukhov.
Vladimir Pastukhov
21 September 2010

In Russia, the brighter the ray of truth, the darker the cellar from which it shines.

In Russia the campaign against the ‘cult of the capital’ is underway with a vengeance.

But the political scandal surrounding Luzhkov has very little to do with Luzhkov himself. It’s not so much a battle waged by the Kremlin and the White House [Prime Minister’s office, ed] against the Moscow Mayor as between the Kremlin and the White House over Luzhkov. The reasons for the conflict are to be found elsewhere.

Cracks caused by internal tension.

I’m not sure that anyone had given any serious thought to planning the current attack on Luzhkov ahead of time. Especially as someone wanted to start it right at this moment.


The political scandal surrounding Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov has very little to do with Luzhkov himself 

It all happened of its own accord. Tension simply cannot go on increasing for ever – sooner or later a spark had to go off. Political relations within and surrounding the Putin-Medvedev ‘tandem’ have become too complex and intricate. One thing led to another, there was an atmosphere of general suspicion and a premature war broke out. A war that in fact no one is properly prepared for, and which will be of absolutely no benefit to anyone.

The Kremlin has opened a political Pandora’s box.

I don’t rule out the possibility that soon our television screens will be full of such monstrosities that by comparison tales of the Baturina-Luzhkov family will seem like society gossip column reports.

Luzhkov has done nothing that other members of the ruling elite would not have done over the last 15 years. His empire differs little from the empires of other officials. What has Luzhkov done for his wife that St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matvienko has not done for her son? This list could be continued ad infinitum.

If the ruling elite doesn’t have the sense and self-control to stop this campaign, then the mutual denunciations will soon cause YouTube to overheat. It will be practically impossible to keep the filthy stream of political faeces within its banks. It will flood the entire field…

These incidents look more like a political accident than an organized plan of action.

There were no obvious reasons for the hurry. Luzhkov’s term in power ends in June next year anyway. His chances of being re-elected were practically zero, and he understood this. In a normal situation, these few months would have been of no significance to either the Kremlin or the White House. All the discussions about Luzhkov’s special role in ensuring election results are a bluff. As long as society is well fed and asleep, then Luzhkov is not necessary; when it wakes up, Luzhkov won’t be able to help.

The cost of transporting Luzhkov’s bees out of Moscow was tens of times higher than disbursements necessitated by the shortage of honey.

This campaign has nothing to do with the war on corruption. The country learnt nothing from the hastily edited reports that it didn’t know before. What we are seeing is an official admission of something that has long been an open secret. But heavens, just look how they did it! The films shown on NTV channel are so disgusting that they are enough to make people go out and demonstrate in support of Luzhkov.

It all looks like a tournament without any prizes.

None of the parties involved gains anything significant from a victory in this “Blitzkrieg”.

Whether Luzhkov will step down or sit things out is of absolutely no significance in this situation. As I already said, Luzhkov’s departure was pre-planned before this scandal, and a few months made no difference at all. This battle is not directed against Luzhkov.

The question of who will replace Luzhkov seems more significant. It is quite important whether this person is a Putin or a Medvedev figure, or someone independent. The nervousness of the last few weeks shows that there is no unanimity between the Kremlin and the White House about who Luzhkov’s successor will be. But there was no special need to solve this issue immediately.

All three of the main participants of the conflict – Medvedev, Putin and Luzhkov – have become hostages of historical events.

I have three explanations for this incident and for why events unfolded so quickly.

The first explanation is the battle for the ‘Moscow inheritance’ in the corridors of the Kremlin and the White House had become so intense that one of the contenders, willingly or unwillingly, provoked a false start,

The second is that the complications in the Putin-Medvedev relationship mean they can no longer act in harmony, nipping risky initiatives by people in their entourage in the bud.

The third is that Luzhkov himself, whose political soundness has been in doubt for quite some time, behaved in an excessively assertive manner, and thus provoked the premature attack on him.

It follows from all of this that no one really calculated the political consequences of this war. The only question that should be on everybody’s mind at present is whether it will be possible to keep this campaign under control.

It’s easy to open Pandora’s box, but hard to close it. In Russia, political stability often turns into its opposite, bypassing all the transitional periods.

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