LUZHKOV. Medvedev dismissed Luzhkov as mayor of Moscow on Tuesday and appointed his 1st Deputy Vladimir Resin pro tem. The reason given was that he had lost confidence in Luzhkov. Luzhkov thereupon resigned from the pedestal party. As usual, some in the Kommentariat are trying to spin this as evidence that the Duumvirate is cracking, but Putin seemed quite comfortable with the decision. So now what? I see three possibilities from Medvedev’s side. 1. Luzhkov, who is 74, is allowed to go quietly into retirement. 2. He is given some face-saving appointment. Either seems to be more likely (based on past practice) than the third which is that a corruption prosecution is opened against him, his wife or both. Putting them on trial would send a very strong signal that Medvedev is serious about corruption and that even the highest are subject to the law. (And, come to think of it, not doing so would send quite a different signal). But, any prosecution has to be transparent and competent (the last being in rather short supply among government prosecutions: vide YUKOS and Budanov). It’s a pity that it ended this way: I think Luzhkov did a great deal for his city but it would have been better had he stepped down a term ago. I believe that what’s really happening here is that the Team is forcing out those regional heads who think they own their jobs. While Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the other recently departed leader-for-life, has his future worked out – he was just re-elected head of FIDE –Luzhkov is still grumbling and has invoked the Russian version of Godwin’s Law. Something not much noted is that there have been more name changes at the top than elsewhere: for example, in 1996 Yeltsin ran against Zhirinovskiy, Zyuganov and Yavlinskiy; in 2000 Putin ran against the three. Only the last had departed the political scene (and not at his own desire) when Medvedev ran in 2008. Luzhkov had been mayor since 1992 and Ilyumzhinov president of Kalmykia since 1993. A lot has happened since then.
POLICE. Police reform grinds along. On Sunday Interior Minister Nurgaliyev told a TV station that police recruits will have to pass a three-stage test: the traditional questionnaire, a re-evaluation and then they must find a “warrantor” (whatever that last proves to be). Regular polls will be conducted and monitored to gauge popular satisfaction with police procedures and a hot line for reporting abuses will be created.
REPORTERS. The head of the Investigation Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office has ordered a “prompt and thorough analysis of all criminal cases in which journalists are listed as victims”.
NORTH CAUCASUS. A new commission, charged with economic development and headed by Putin, has been formed. An admission that previous efforts to improve the dismal economic situation have not been effective.
YANAYEV. Gennadiy Yanayev, Gorbachev’s vice president and a leader of the August 1991 coup attempt died on Friday, aged 73. This, combined with the fact that Yeltsin’s vice president led a coup attempt against him, explains why Russia does not have a Vice President position today.
JIHADISM. The last week has had several significant operations in Dagestan with claims of success and prevention of major attacks. Kadyrov is personally leading an operation in Chechnya’s mountains (no empty boast: he’s done lots of this). I again recommend that people interested in the jihad in the North Caucasus follow Gordon Hahn’s periodic analyses here.
MOLDOVA. Moldova’s acting president dissolved parliament for elections in November. Moldova has been in a political deadlock for a year and a half with parliament unable to choose a new president. The potential danger here is that the old notion that Moldova should dissolve itself and join Romania is no longer dormant. It is a very divisive issue and has potential to destabilise things in Moldova (and Romania).
CHUTZPAH. There’s an old joke made to explain the meaning of “chutzpah”: a man, on trial for murdering his parents, pleads for mercy because he is an orphan. Here is another: “My first call is addressed to my fellow citizens of Abkhaz and Ossetian origins who live behind the New Iron Curtain that divides our common nation. I want to tell them once again: we will protect your rights. Your culture. Your history-we will work with you. We will work for you.” Ossetians and Abkhazians remember Saakashvili’s similar promise in 7 August 2008 and what followed it on 8 August.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)