UPDATE – To Cheat Death, Luzhkov Takes Back Insult to Medvedev

In an earlier post, I wrote that Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov was pushing his luck by appointing Deputy Mayor Vladimir Resin – the man with the $1 million watch – as head of the Moscow Anti-Corruption Council.  Since then, there have been several interesting developments.

First, a report was released by the insider Agency of Political and Economic Communication entitled, “Change of Power in Moscow: Factors and Scenarios.”  The report states that Luzhkov’s reign will soon end, possibly this year according to people in the Kremlin.  

Second, a new criminal case was opened against Deputy Mayor Ryabinin under Art. 290 of the Russian Criminal Code – “Receipt of a Bribe.”  As I explained in my earlier post, in March a case was brought against Ryabinin under Art. 285 (Abuse of Power), but subsequently dropped.

Finally, just today it was reported that Deputy Mayor Resin will not be chairing the Anti-Corruption Committee, but in fact it will be led by Luzhkov himself.  Gazeta states that a reason for the change was not provided by the Mayor’s press office.  Still, the article notes that opposition members in the Moscow Duma objected to the selection of Resin.  For example, Aleksandr Gnezdilov of Yabloko specifically requested that Resin explain where he got his $1 million watch.

Though this is a mildly encouraging development, it is certainly not a solution – Luzhkov himself is implicated in Moscow’s pervasive corruption based solely on his billionaire wife’s involvement with municipal construction projects.  It is an interesting lesson, however, for Russian citizens and outside observers.  Specifically, it shows how the Russian political elite are not immune to public pressures and press coverage on corruption issues.

These events also demonstrate how important online media – including ZheZhe blogs – and the relatively few independent traditional media outlets are in Russia today.  Ironically, the traditional state- and oligarch-controlled media’s silence on these issues only intensifies the spotlight put on them by independent media outlets.

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