Report: Kremlin says Moscow mayor to go
The Kremlin has definitively decided that it is time for Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, to be ousted, dpa reported with reference to a report in the Vedomosti newspaper Tuesday.
The decision to remove Luzhkov, who has been in power for 20 years, was made after days of meetings between government officials and came amidst a steady drumbeat of leaks showing that Luzhkov had fallen afoul of President Dmitry Medvedev's modernization goals for Russia.
That impression has only been reinforced by regular news reports in recent weeks about alleged corruption and nepotism by Luzhkov and his wife.
Luzhkov was in Austria celebrating his 74th birthday, on a trip that the mayor characterized as a long-planned holiday, but the Kremlin characterized as a trip for Luzhkov to think about his next steps.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin said Luzhkov would still have time to find a new job. But Luzhkov, one of Russia's most powerful men, has regularly said he will not leave his post.
Russian media have already begun to speculate on successors to Luzhkov, including Emergency Situations Minister Sergey Shoigu, who enjoy popular support according to polls.
By law, Medvedev must approve any new Moscow mayor, one of the most important jobs in Russian politics.
Russia watchers are increasingly seeing the moves as positioning before the 2012 presidential elections, in which Medvedev could take on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a close ally of Luzhkov.