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Moscow Mayor's Ouster 'Won't Kill' Yerevan Construction Project

The Noragyugh neighborhood in Yerevan, site of the redevelopment plans
The Noragyugh neighborhood in Yerevan, site of the redevelopment plans
YEREVAN -- A senior Armenian official says the dismissal of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov will not affect the implementation of a major redevelopment project in Yerevan that he backed, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired Luzhkov on September 28 following a standoff between the Kremlin and the mayor. Medvedev named First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Resin, a longtime Luzhkov ally, to serve as interim mayor.

Both Luzhkov and Resin have voiced support for the Armenian government's ambitious plans to create a new upscale residential and financial district in Noragyugh, a rundown neighborhood in Yerevan. Luzhkov personally inspected the area in January and pledged to help attract large-scale Russian investment in the redevelopment plan, which would require billions of dollars in funding.

Resin reaffirmed that pledge when he visited the Armenian capital in June. "We agreed to jointly promote this project," he said after talks with Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglarian.

It remained unclear what form the assistance promised by the Moscow municipality would take. Luzhkov's ouster raised more questions about Russian participation in the project.

Davit Gevorgian, the head of the external relations department in the Yerevan municipality, insisted that Luzhkov's dismissal does not reduce chances for the project's implementation, and that "serious potential investors" remain interested.

"Business is the driving force behind that project," he told RFE/RL. "If it wasn't economically justified, then, believe me, there would not have been such interest."

Gevorgian said "it would be incorrect to associate the project with one person. The implementation of that large-scale project does not depend on one or two visits by Luzhkov."

"Our cooperation is based on programs and it is going on between structures, between the government of Moscow and the Yerevan Mayor's Office," he added.

Asked whether Luzhkov planned to personally invest in the Noragyugh project, the official said, "I have no such information."

Luzhkov presided over a massive construction boom that changed the face of Moscow throughout his 18-year tenure. His wife, Yelena Baturina, owns one of Russia's largest construction companies and is widely considered the country's richest woman.

The authorities in Yerevan have yet to approve an architectural master plan for redeveloping the area, which covers 184 hectares.

Speaking to journalists in June, Beglarian avoided questions about funding for the project and possible dates for its launch. He only said that construction will not get under way until Noragyugh's approximately 1,500 families are resettled in apartment blocks to be built elsewhere in the city.

Gevorgian said a Moscow delegation led by Deputy Mayor Sergei Baydakov will visit Yerevan next week to participate in an annual festival held by the municipal administration. He said Baydakov will also discuss "cooperation between the two cities" with Armenian officials.