Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 180

Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow’s populist mayor, took another step Wednesday toward making his well-known presidential ambitions official. Luzhkov, in England to attend the annual conference of Britain’s Labor Party, held a press conference at the Russian embassy in London, during which he reiterated in more overt form comments he had made the previous day. “I have not said I will run for president in 2000, and for now I don’t plan to make such announcements,” he said. “My position is that I don’t want to leave [the post of mayor of] Moscow. But if I see that the contenders who want to gain the presidential post don’t have the necessary statesmanlike positions to ensure Russia’s stability and flourishing, then I will join the battle” (Russian agencies, September 30).

The comments left little doubt that the Luzhkov-for-president bandwagon is now rolling in earnest. If there were any residual doubts about the mayor’s intentions, Luzhkov dispelled them further by taking a swipe at the “Russia is Our Home” (ROH)–the political bloc founded by Viktor Chernomyrdin and the likely vehicle for the former prime minister’s own presidential run. Luzhkov said that ROH is “not a party and not a movement, but nothing more than a group of lobbyist Duma deputies” (RTR television, September 30).

While it seemed last month that Boris Yeltsin had dealt Chernomyrdin a lethal blow when he withdrew Chernomyrdin’s candidacy for the premiership in favor of Yevgeny Primakov, some observers believe that the Russian president may ultimately reward Chernomyrdin’s years of loyalty by anointing him as heir apparent. Furthermore, Yeltsin is thought to be extremely wary of the ambitious Moscow mayor: Yeltsin reportedly fired several of members of his inner circle for pushing Luzhkov’s nomination as prime minister. In addition, many of Russia’s powerful financial clans are said to be allergic to Luzhkov. The allergens are twofold. First, Moscow, Inc. is itself one of Russia’s most powerful financial-industrial empires. Second, Luzhkov’s frequent statements assert that the results of privatization should be reviewed or even investigated by the general prosecutor.