Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 99

Is the Kremlin, now that it has removed Yevgeny Primakov from office, shifting its gun-sites toward Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov?

There is no direct evidence that this is the case. It is interesting to note, however, that this week Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), launched what can only be seen as an open attack on Luzhkov’s power and authority. On May 19 Duma sources reportedly said that Zhirinovsky had sent a letter to Yeltsin suggesting “liquidating the post of the mayor of Moscow and replacing it with the post of a member of the federal government–the minister for Moscow affairs.” Zhirinovsky’s letter was quoted as claiming: “Today an enormous number of law enforcement officers and some 100,000 well-armed security guards from private companies are subordinate to the Moscow mayor. Thus, the Moscow mayor controls more militarized associations and organizations than the president or federal government” (Russian agencies, May 19).

It may be sheer coincidence, but Luzhkov, speaking today to a founding conference of a national union of nongovernmental security agencies, said: “We are prepared to support decisions made by the authorities which conform with the constitution. But if those actions go beyond the framework of the constitution, we should do everything possible to oppose them.” Luzhkov also said that the firing of Primakov had not been “a gift to stability,” and questioned the role of the presidential administration in the country, asking: “Does it have a stabilizing, creative, calming role or does it perform other functions?” (Russian agencies, May 21).

While Zhirinovsky has increasingly become Russia’s political clown, his LDPR faction in the State Duma reliably backs Kremlin initiatives, often playing a key role in their passage. Thus he is believed to be plugged into the Kremlin: He accurately predicted, for example, that the Primakov cabinet would be ousted in May. It is also worth noting that just prior to Primakov’s firing, Zhirinovsky met with Luzhkov and there were rumors that the two could form a political alliance. Luzhkov and Berezovsky, meanwhile, are known to dislike one another.