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RUSSIA - Profile - Yuri Luzhkov

The mayor of Moscow, Luzhkov, 61, is one of the main condidates to challenge Chernomyrdin in the next presidential elections. Powerful and domineer-ing, he has become very popular as he has made Moscow a real economic power centre by generating big money from the city's tax base and from leasing real estate. He has repaired the city's potholes, built some new gold-domed churches, parks and housing and has provided a municipal golf course. In the process he has brought Moscow's unemployment down considerably and made the city more livable.

Luzhkov won a landslide victory in municipal elections in June 1996. Considered the undisputed "king of Moscow", the mayor was such a strong favourite that he had to help opposing candidates to secure signatures or he would have had no opponents, which would have made his own candidature invalid under Russian law.

Luzhkov has spent his whole political career in Moscow. When Yeltsin became head of the powerful Moscow Communist Party machine in 1987, he asked Luzhkov to join his executive. Despite Yeltsin's later sacking as mayor, Luzhkov survived and in June 1991 was elected as deputy mayor on Gavril Popov's reformist ticket. A year later Popov resigned and Luzhkov took the top spot. Although the city council told him to stand for election, Yeltsin as president made him mayor by decree.

Luzhkov opposed hard-hitting economic reforms, particularly privatisations, and managed to obtain a compromise for Moscow which greatly strengthened the city authorities' discretionary powers over privatisation. However, Luzhkov did not have things all his own way. He was accused of corruption and favouritism, notably towards the big banking groups. He is particularly close to Vladimir Gusinsky, the Jewish president of Most Group.

In 1994 and 1995, Luzhkov was tipped as a possible rival to Yeltsin for the presidency and relations with the Kremlin cooled, culminating in a raid by presidential security service officials on Gusisky's Most Bank which is closely linked to Moscow City Hall. Observers said the spectacular raid was a warning not to overstep the mark. Luzhkov and Yeltsin quickly mended fences and the former was very public in his support for the president's re-election campaign. Successes in Moscow were held up as an example of the benefits of reform.

A small rounded man, Luzhkov has a reputation for getting things done. He had his education in Moscow, after which he rose up in the ministry of chemical industries to become head of its scientific department. At the same time he was a loyal party man, joining the Communist Party in 1968 and remaining in it until it was banned after the failed coup of August 1991. His dedication in 1975 earned him a place in the Moscow Soviet, equivalent to the city council now.

Luzkhov's first deputy for public works is Vladimir Ressin, the man in charge of the facelift to the city of Moscow. His aim is "to preserve the soul of the capital and the original facades of many buildings", a very popular move among Russians nostalgic for past glory. He and Luzhkov are seeking to create a better balance between lodgings and offices in the city centre. Among a dozen

grandiose projects planned is the world's tallest tower block to measure 600 metres high. The 120-storey block would be called Russia Tower and would be the centrepiece of a revamped business district dubbed Moscow City, in the capital's centre. Many other skyscrapers of 40 to 70 storeys are included in the plan. Luzhkov has said his "dream is to make Moscow the world's most beautiful and attractive city".
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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Article Type:Article
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Aug 31, 1998
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