December 25, 1996
A look at the powerful mayor of Moscow, one of Russia's rising politicians. Lawrence McDonnell of Independent Television News reports.
LAWRENCE McDONNELL, ITN: Just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin, the Moscow skyline is being restored to its former glory. For two years now, building work has continued around the clock to complete the Church of Christ, the Savior, in time for next year's 850th anniversary of the founding of the Russian capital. The original church was destroyed at Stalin's orders in the 1930's. The atheists of the new Soviet state had no room for this temple to Russian orthodoxy. Rebuilding the cathedral is the vision of one man, the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Lyuzhkov.
Here, presenting his work to President Yeltsin, the church's consecration. (singing in background) Today's Russian leaders are keen to show off their newfound faith by courting the orthodox church and Mayor Lyuzhkov has taken the fashion to its logical extreme by tying himself so closely to the church's resurrection and to the rebuilding of Moscow, itself. Yuri Lyuzhkov is a master of the photo opportunity, here baring himself for the cameras in the middle of the Russian winter--a striker on the football pitch and public patron of culture and art, the most dynamic politician in Russia today. With regular walk-abouts around the capital, he's succeeded in presenting himself as the man who gets things done. In recent elections for city mayor he was easily returned to office with almost 90 percent of the vote. Those elections ran alongside elections for the Russian presidency, and campaign posters showed Lyuzhkov and Yeltsin each supporting the other's candidacy. Lyuzhkov has always stood behind Boris Yeltsin. The mayor's biggest project is the 300 million dollar Manezh shopping complex which actually runs alongside the walls of the Kremlin. The Manezh Plaza runs three floors underground. Another Moscow anniversary project, soon this will be prime retail space.
Like a proud neighbor, Yuri Lyuzhkov keeps the president up to date on each stage of the project and keeps a tight control on building work, instilling a mixture of loyalty and respect in anyone who deals with him. With projects like Manezh, Yuri Lyuzhkov has made Moscow is own fiefdom. But he is a product of the Russian capital, a city which enjoys more foreign investment than the rest of the country put together, a fact resented by many outside the capital where “he” has no political base. The huge public building projects that have changed the face of the Russian capital are the trademark of Mayor Lyuzhkov. He's taken personal control of the city to create his vision of a new Russia. But Moscow is not Russia, and Yuri Lyuzhkov still has a long way to go if he plans to extend his vision and his powers across the country. Gavrill Popov used to be Moscow mayor, with Yuri Lyuzhkov as his deputy. Even then, Mr. Lyuzhkov was more comfortable in front of the cameras. Mr. Popov told me the man he watched appointed above him still has much to learn.
GAVRILL POPOV, Former Mayor of Moscow: Knowledge of other part of Russia is the first problem. The second problem is the knowledge of the political history, political thinking, in another map, and so different is the style of his personal administration. He tried to put himself in each question. That was a problem. Of course, in Moscow, it's possible. We have here a half hour from a problem, but in country, it is impossible, nationally.
(MAN SINGING IN RUSSIAN)
LAWRENCE McDONNELL: Yosef Kobzon is Russia's popular crooner, with alleged links to the mafia. The United States refused him a visa on the suspicion he planned to engage in criminal activity. Kobzon makes no secret of his friendship with Yeponchik, a gangster of controlling the Russian mafia in the states and jailed on extortion charges, and a big friend and fan of Yosef Kobzon is Mayor Yuri Lyuzhkov. It's rumored that Mr. Lyuzhkov's position in the capital would be untenable without the support of the Moscow mafia. Stanislav Terekhov ran against Mr. Lyuzhkov in the elections for city mayor and claims Moscow's top official has built himself a financial empire on the strength of his position.
STANISLAV TEREKHOV, Chairman, Officers' Union: (speaking through interpreter) He occupies a political position but is involved in all sorts of commercial operations. Lyuzhkov is in total control of any Western investments in the city, either directly or through his deputies. Every investment has to go through his officials.
LAWRENCE McDONNELL: Every week, Yuri Lyuzhkov talks to his Moscow fans and critics on his favorite television program. The presenter, Boris Notkin, another fan, says nowadays Muscovites couldn't care less if the city's mayor is corrupt or not, as long as they benefit.
BORIS NOTKIN, Television Show Host: Since the whole country has beaten all records in corruption, people no longer are sensitive to the very fact of corruption. What they're interested in, what part of incomes goes to them, to the people. He gives pensions on time. He pays the teachers and doctors more than on the national level. All theaters prefer to be under the municipal jurisdiction and not the federal government because they know that from Mayor Lyuzhkov they will get three or four times more than from the Russian federal government. So what people remember is how much Lyuzhkov gives them in comparison with other political or economic leaders. The rest is unimportant.
LAWRENCE McDONNELL: With Moscow behind him, Yuri Lyuzhkov is already one of the most powerful men in Russia. And by aligning himself so closely to Boris Yeltsin he's groomed himself as heir apparent. For the moment he seems content to wait in the wings, but how long before the ambitious king maker wants to be king?