Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 135

Izvestia reports on a recent visit by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov to Tula Oblast, south of Moscow, during which Luzhkov reportedly offered to invest a considerable amount of money in the Tula’s battered economy. Tula has been a center of arms production since the time of Peter the Great and the defense industry still dominates the regional economy. The region is now in the grip of severe economic depression and desperately in need of fresh investment. Since last year, the region has been headed by Governor Vasily Starodubtsev–one of the plotters of the August 1991 coup that brought down the USSR. (Izvestia, July 11)

According to Izvestia, Starodubtsev responded to Luzhkov’s offer of financial aid by promising to support Luzhkov rather than Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov in the presidential election scheduled for 2000. Luzhkov has consistently denied that he has presidential ambitions. Were he to change his mind, however, the extensive network of economic ties he has constructed with cities and regions all over Russia could prove an invaluable campaign asset. Moscow now has such ties with, among others, Arkhangelsk, Kaliningrad, Kirov, Kursk, Pskov and Saratov Oblasts and the Chukchi Autonomous Okrug. It also has separate agreements with fifteen cities in Russia, including St. Petersburg and the Chechen capital, Djohar. An agreement with Shushensky Raion in Krasnoyarsk Krai provided for a supply of marble for the Church of Christ the Savior. And so on.

Earlier this week, Saratov Governor Dmitri Ayatskov, himself seen by some as a potential presidential candidate, was quoted as speculating that public discontent might force President Boris Yeltsin and his government to resign in the autumn. Early elections would not be a tragedy, Ayatskov declared, since they would open the way for new “social democratic” blood in the leadership, “such as Luzhkov and Ayatskov.” (Russian agencies, July 13)