October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

USSR2 File: Medvedev sacks long-time Moscow mayor, Luzhkov’s wife world’s 3rd richest woman; police bust Left Front rally, AKM head anointed by Shenin 


On September 28, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired Moscow’s powerful mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who has been in office since 1992. Like Medvedev, a graduate of the Soviet Komsomol, Luzhkov is connected to the old Soviet regime. A “former” cadre of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Luzhkov joined up with United Russia, the new potemkin “party of power” created by the Soviet strategists. Internationally, Comrade Luzhkov is renowned for his dislike of homosexuals and banning of “gay pride” parades in Moscow.

Pictured above: Friend or foes? Yuri Luzhkov with Vladimir Putin at a war memorial ceremony in May this year.

“Recently, being one of the party's leaders, I have been fiercely attacked by state mass media, and the attacks were related to the attempts to push Moscow's mayor off the political scene,” complained Luzhkov, who also resigned his membership in United Russia. He added in his resignation letter: “The party did not provide any support, did not want to sort things out and stop the flow of lies and slander.”

During Russia’s forest fire crisis this past summer, when Muscovites were choking on smoke, Luzhkov was attacked for remaining on holiday. Luzhkov’s billionaire wife, Yelena Baturina, has also been accused of corruption. According to Luzhkov’s latest financial disclosure, filed in May, Baturina earned more than US$1 billion in 2009, primarily by way of her property development company ZAO Inteco. Forbes magazine ranks Baturina as the world’s third-richest woman, with a fortune of $2.9 billion.

Boris Nemtsov, former deputy prime minister and opposition politician, published a report last year in which he asserted that Inteco received preferential treatment in acquiring land from Moscow city hall, as well as securing building permits and exemptions from paying for connection to municipal utilities. Inteco and Baturina sued Nemtsov for defamation. On July 19, 2010, a Moscow appeals court ordered Nemtsov to retract these and other comments. However, neither side was pleased with the ruling. Both Baturina and Nemtsov launched another round of appeals.

Although Luzhkov was aligned with United Russia, he maintained his own power base outside the Kremlin, which may have been his cardinal sin. BBC’s Moscow correspondent Richard Galpin believes this battle was sparked by a newspaper article written by Luzhkov in which he appeared to criticize Medvedev and call for “a return to stronger national leadership.” Before the emergence of Vladimir Putin, in his first stint as prime minister in 1999, Luzhkov was tipped as a possible future Russian Federation president.

It appears that companies related to Putin’s St. Petersburg FSB/KGB power clan, which runs the day-to-day affairs of the Kremlin, will benefit from the putsch against Luzhkov and Baturina. One such company is the LSR Group, which is directed by Andrey Molchanov, son of St. Petersburg Vice-Governor Yuri Molchanov, a former classmate of Putin’s at Leningrad State University. Incidentally, it was at Leningrad State that former KGB man Putin joined the CPSU in 1975.

The day after Luzhkov’s ouster, Vladimir Dmitriev, chairman of the VEB development bank denied that his state-owned entity is in a position to proceed with a US$2.5 billion project to build housing with Inteco. “You have to look at which companies are close to the federal government; they will get the privileges,” remarked Sergei Zharkov, an analyst from Moscow-based property research group, IRN.

Speaking with an assertiveness that does not correspond with his image as Putin’s “lap dog,” Medvedev bragged while visiting Red China two weeks ago: “As the president of Russia I lost my trust in Yuri Mikhailovich Luzhkov as the mayor of Moscow. I will decide who will lead Moscow.” Putin reined in his “pet,” by demurring: “I hope I will have a chance to express my opinion. Luzhkov is a symbolic figure in modern Russia.” Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev endorsed Medvedev's decree, exposing the continuity between Russia's communist and "post"-communist leaders.

In truth, we rather suspect that the leadership of the (secretly ruling) Communist Party of the Russian Federation—that is, Chairman Gennady Zyuganov—had the final say in this shuffling of chairs on the deck of the neo-Soviet ship of state. In their ongoing drive toward recentralization of power, the last thing the Soviet strategists need is a loose cannon like Luzhkov.

Multi-party politics in “post”-Soviet Russia, as we have documented at this blog for nearly five years, is a deceptive, controlled affair related to the Soviet leadership’s strategy of creating a “mature socialist society,” as well as ideologically and militarily disarming the West. There is hardly a Russian politician, young or old, that is not in some way linked to the pillars of the old Soviet regime, such as the CPSU, the Komsomol, the Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB), or Soviet military intelligence (GRU).

In the late 1980s, Russian politics was a drama between “reform” and “hardline” communists. Then, on Christmas Day 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced that the CCCP was no more. However, unlike the depraved leadership of Nazi Germany, which was executed, the anti-Gorbachev putschists endured very short prison sentences and, ruse accomplished, enjoyed comfortable retirement packages. Meanwhile, the Communist Party was unbanned (as if it had every really been banned to begin with).

Thereafter, Russian politics became a contest between, in the one camp, unrepentant open communists and, in the other, “ex”-communists constituting Russia’s new nationalist and liberal “right wing.” Nevertheless, regular closed-door meetings between open communists, like Zyuganov, and “fallen by the wayside” communists, like Putin, had the “feel” of cordial debriefing sessions. Incidentally, when Gennady Yanayev, who was president of the three-day putschist government in August 1991, died on September 24, Zyuganov was quick to praise the man as the Soviet Union’s “savior.”

On Tuesday, the Russian “opposition” once again held another unauthorized “Day of Wrath” protest outside the office of Vladimir Resin, Moscow’s acting mayor, during which the police detained about 40 participants. Detainees included the organizers of the rally: Sergei Udaltsov, the young coordinator of the Left Front, United Labor Front, and Red Youth Vanguard (AKM), all of which are committed to resurrecting the Soviet Union; Nikolai Alexeyev, leader of Russia’s homosexual movement; and Lev Ponomarev, a prominent human rights activist.

The participants of the rally, which amounted to several dozen, demanded the return of the direct election of the mayor of Moscow. Alexeyev complained that the police actions were unduly harsh: “We were dragged on the pavement almost in a reclining position. The same way they dragged us into the bus.”

In February, Russia’s Marxist-Leninists founded the “anti-Putinist” United Labor Front, which included Udaltsov’s Left Front, which in turn was organized in 2008. According to Russian law, a new party must recruit 45,000 members and set up branches in more than one half of Russia’s regions in order to apply for registration. Udaltsov predicted the United Labor Front would attract 60,000 to 65,000 members and open branches in 70 regions. The young communist is also leader of the street-fighting Red Youth Vanguard (AKM), whose logo is the AK-14 assault rifle.

On July 31 Left Front/Red Youth Vanguard cadres were arrested in Moscow and St. Petersburg for “anti-Putinist” agitation, which included lofting posters that read “Putin is the butcher of freedom.” Udaltsov is not averse to combining his communist agitators with the liberal forces of Nemtsov’s Other Russia coalition. During the August “Day of Wrath” protest in Moscow both men were arrested for protesting the Kremlin’s restrictions on freedom of assembly.

In 2005, Oleg Shenin—Stalinist mastermind behind the 1991 anti-Gorbachevist “coup” and past leader of the Union of Communist Parties-CPSU, which includes the CPRF and other communist parties in the “post”-Soviet space—anointed the AKM as the youthful torch-bearers for the reconstituted Soviet Union. Addressing the AKM's Sixth Congress, he declared: "We are satisfied . . . about the fact that AKM works under the political leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and it prepares its members for entrance into the CPSU. The basis of our interrelations is complete ideological accord and the organizational independence of youth organization."

Shenin died in May 2009, preceding his co-conspirator Yanayev by more than a year. He did not go to his grave, however, without first preparing for the resurrection of the USSR. Before the stage-managed collapse of the Soviet Union, he employed the services of Belgian-born US businessman Marc Rich--who was later pardoned for other crimes by President Bill Clinton--to secrete the CPSU’s vast financial holdings into Swiss bank accounts. There the Party’s slush fund awaits the arrival of Soviet Union Version 2.0.