Russia: Knocking Down the 'Kingpin of Moscow'

3 MINS READJan 30, 2008 | 20:35 GMT
Dima Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images
Longtime Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov could be on his way out, according to STRATFOR sources. Luzhkov wields unprecedented mayoral power over the Russian capital, with close ties to major bankers, media moguls and the city's biggest businesses. When he became mayor in 1992, his wife Yelena's small construction company, Inteco, burst onto the Moscow scene, performing 20 percent of all construction work in the capital. Now, Inteco accounts for most of the construction in Moscow and many other cities, making Yelena Russia's only female billionaire. But along with all of this, Luzhkov has been nicknamed the "Kingpin of Moscow," mainly because of the many corruption accusations he faces and his alleged ties to the Moscow Mafia. It has never been a secret that Luzhkov and Russian President Vladimir Putin do not get along. Putin has long wanted to go after Luzhkov and end his reign over Moscow and the construction business, but the president has held back because of Luzhkov's many political backers in the Duma and supposed Mafia ties. Moreover, Luzhkov is on the board of Putin's political party, United Russia. The straw that broke Putin's back was the December 2007 legislative elections; not only was voter turnout in Moscow low, but votes for United Russia also were abysmal. The party did win the elections with a majority in the end, but the turnout in Moscow has given Putin the impetus to get members of United Russia behind him in targeting Luzhkov. STRATFOR sources say Putin has given Luzhkov until the fall to tie up loose ends in his mayoral post, and he must then resign. Moreover, Putin is already clearing out Luzhkov's supporters in the Duma, stripping Alexander Chiligarov of the Duma vice presidency and Iosif Kobozon of his place on the Duma Commission. It remains to be seen if Putin will just strip Luzhkov of his mayoral title or if he intends to go after the mayor and his wife's construction and real estate empire. Many Kremlin insiders and other oligarchs have been salivating at the thought of getting their hands on Luzhkov's assets. But Luzhkov is not the sort to go quietly. He still has some tools — mainly his alleged ties to the largest Mafia in Russia — that he might be tempted to use against Putin and the Kremlin, though making such a move would amount to suicide. But on the other hand, Putin could use this time to prove to the Moscow Mafia that his control over the country will not be shaken by any move that the Mafia — or anyone else — would want to make against the Kremlin. Some of Putin's loyalists allegedly have their own ties to the Moscow Mafia, and the president could use the Mafia members who supposedly are connected to Kremlin insiders against those said to be loyal to Luzhkov, fracturing one of the most powerful mafias in the world.

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