Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is continuing his efforts to absorb the “centrist” portion of the Russian electorate. Otechestvo (Fatherland), Luzhkov’s new political movement, held its founding congress over the weekend. In his keynote address, Luzhkov again hit the theme which is likely to be one of the main thrusts of his presidential campaign: He bitterly attacked the “monetarist” policies and privatization schemes carried out from 1992-1998. Clearly referring to the center-right coalition recently launched by Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais, Luzhkov declared: “Clearly, it would be correct for the authors of the failed reforms to repent before the people, but they continue to jump up and down on the television screens like jacks-in-the-box and tell us how to live our lives. But now, after everything that’s happened, after the crisis of the system, we should say to them with absolute confidence: The experiment is over, good gentlemen.” Luzhkov said he was not calling for “universal nationalization or a total redistribution of property,” but said that the results of privatization should be “re-examined” to determine if “illegal, barbaric or predatory methods” were used.
In his speech, Luzhkov also defended his decision to ban a congress planned by Russian National Unity (RNU), the ultra-nationalist–some would say neo-Nazi–organization. In an interviewed aired Sunday, Luzhkov claimed that there was a legal basis for banning RNU outright, adding that the only thing missing was the “civil courage and will” to do so (RTR, December 19, 20).
President Boris Yeltsin did not send greetings to Otechestvo’s founding congress, as is customary. For a number of years already, the Kremlin had already reportedly looked on Luzhkov’s ambitions with trepidation. However, Oleg Sysuev, first deputy head of the presidential administration, did attend the congress. He told reporters that he could not agree with the “acuteness and categorical nature” of the assessments Luzhkov made in his speech. Sysuev was apparently referring to Luzhkov’s remarks on privatization. Sysuev also claimed that 70 percent of those in the audience held government posts while the controversial reforms were being carried out. Otechestvo includes many former government officials, including Anatoly Kulikov, former interior minister, Andrei Kokoshin, former head of Yeltsin’s Security Council and Dmitri Yastrzhembsky, Yeltsin’s former spokesman. Some critics are calling the movement a new “party of power”–a term previously used in referring to former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s Russia is Our Home.
During Saturday’s congress, Luzhkov was elected leader of Otechestvo in a unanimous vote.
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