The Kremlin’s battle against Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow’s mayor and one of the leaders of the Fatherland-All Russia election coalition, appears to be intensifying. Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov held a press conference yesterday in the Russian capital, during which he charged the Moscow branch of the Interior Ministry, headed by Nikolai Kulikov, had ignored the massive falsification of crime statistics by the Moscow police. Zubov charged that Kulikov had “lost control” of the situation in Moscow. The day before, Zubov’s boss, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, said he had asked President Boris Yeltsin to remove Kulikov, who is close to Luzhkov, as Moscow police chief (Russian agencies, November 29-30).
Rushailo’s and Zubov’s comments come on the heels of strong attacks against Luzhkov in the pro-Kremlin media. Last month, “Zerkalo,” the weekly news analysis program on the state-owned RTR television program, featured what it said was video footage from a secret Interior Ministry inspection of the Moscow city police, in which inspectors were able to plant fake bombs at various points around the capital without being caught (RTR, November 14). NTV television, which is sympathetic to Luzhkov, later claimed that the RTR footage was not made by Interior Ministry inspectors, but instead by the Diggers–a group which leads expeditions through tunnels and other underground spots in the Russian capital–several years ago (NTV, November 28). Whatever the case, Interior Minister Rushailo had previously criticized Moscow police chief Kulikov for failing to prevent two terrorist bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow earlier this year, which killed more than 200 people and became part of the pretext for the military operation in Chechnya (Moscow Times, December 1). It has not yet been established who was responsible for the bombings or exactly how those attacks were carried out.
Rushailo is said to be close to Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky.
Luzhkov reaffirmed his support for Kulikov yesterday, and said that if Kulikov is removed as police chief, then he, Luzhkov, will appeal the decision in court. According to the federal law “On the militia,” any nomination or removal of a regional Interior Ministry head–in effect, the police chief–by the federal authorities must be approved by the local authorities (Vedemosti, December 1). According to Vladimir Platonov, who is deputy head of the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, and also heads the Moscow City Duma, a Kremlin decision to remove Kulikov would require the approval of both the Moscow mayor and the Moscow City Duma (NTV, November 30). Zubov, however, said yesterday that the president can suspend a regional police chief and replace him with an acting head (Moscow Times, December 1). For its part, NTV featured the comments of several politicians sympathetic to Luzhkov, including Ella Pamfilova, a Duma deputy who once served as Yeltsin’s social policy minister, who called the inspection of the Moscow police politically motivated. She said that the overall record of the Moscow police was undoubtedly better than that of the Primorsky krai police, but that the latter has not been targeted for inspection. Primorsky Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko, she noted, is backing the pro-Kremlin Unity coalition in the upcoming State Duma elections (NTV, November 30).
Meanwhile, on November 26, the Prosecutor General’s Office began carrying out an inspection of the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office. Sergei Gerasimov, Moscow’s chief prosecutor, charged yesterday that the goal of the forty-man brigade of federal inspectors is to “gather negative material on the activities of the capital’s prosecutors” (Segodnya, December 1). An unnamed official in the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office said that the inspectors were focusing on how effectively the office had been investigating the terrorist bombings in the capital, along with other serious crimes (Moscow Times, December 1).
Luzhkov, meanwhile, has been attacked from other directions. His opponents, for example, have revived the accusations that he was complicit in the November 1996 murder of American businessman Paul Tatum. For several week’s running, Sergei Dorenko, the host of the Sunday night news analysis program on Berezovsky-controlled Russian Public Television (ORT) has featured interviews with Tatum’s sister and with Jeff Olsen, who was a friend and business partner of the slain American businessman. Olsen claimed that Tatum, who was shot eleven times in the back, survived long enough to accuse Luzhkov of being behind the attack. On Friday, relatives of Tatum filed a lawsuit against Luzhkov, charging that the Moscow mayor “was responsible for effectuating the murder of Paul Tatum… and illegally confiscating Tatum’s property in Russia” (Moscow Times, November 30).
Tatum was involved in a protracted legal battle with the Moscow city government over control of the Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel complex.
CHECHEN CAPITAL SUBJECTED TO HEAVY BOMBING.