Yury Luzhkov may feel as if he is becoming a persona non grata in Moscow, a city that his critics say he turned into a personal fiefdom during 18 years as mayor.
Still reeling from dethronement at the hands of the president, Luzhkov appears to be digging in for a fight. As reported by RFE/RL
on September 29, singer and Luzhkov buddy Iosif Kobzon says the former Moscow mayor will fight his dismissal in court, and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov says Luzhkov may even challenge the Putin-Medvedev duopoly in 2012.
But if his counterattack fails, Luzhkov might want to consider a run for mayor of Sevastopol, a city in which he actually once was persona non grata. That is, at least, according to Vladimir Tyunin, a local deputy and the leader of “For a United Russia,” a Russian nationalistic group based in the Ukrainian city.
The Russian-language Ukrainian newspaper “Segodnya” quoted Tyunin in a September 29 article
as saying, “Unfortunately, registration applications are already finished for this election campaign, but in the next one, Yury Mikhailovich [Luzhkov] will perhaps be a leader of some political group. We need a mayor like that!”
On September 30, Russian news agency RIA-Novosti quoted Tyunin as saying that pro-Russian groups in the city had prepared an appeal to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to appoint Luzhkov head of the city’s executive committee.
But in May of 2008, Ukraine’s Security Service -- under pro-Western former President Viktor Yuschenko -- banned Luzhkov from setting foot on Ukrainian soil for his now-famous allegation that Sevastopol was the rightful property of Russia. The port city is located on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which is home to a majority ethnic Russian population.
The travel restriction was lifted this summer under pro-Russian Yanukovych, who is accused by critics of all but handing the city to Russia by granting Moscow a 25-year lease extension
on its Black Sea Fleet’s Sevastopol base.
Today, the crooner Kobzon told Russian media that Luzhkov is going to take a break from the spotlight and catch up on his rest before making a decision about his future.
Perhaps he should head to one of Crimea’s many beaches, long-frequented by Russian sun-searchers, now that he’s actually allowed to go. If he commits to leaving Moscow for good, Medvedev may even supply the sunscreen.
-- Richard Solash