Ex-Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, Architect of Post-Soviet Era, Dies

Henry Meyer

(Bloomberg) -- Yury Luzhkov, who served as Moscow’s mayor for 18 years, presiding over the rapid transformation of the Russian capital after the Soviet Union’s collapse, has died at 83, City Hall said.

Luzhkov, whose billionaire wife Elena Baturina grew wealthy from construction contracts in Moscow, drawing accusations of cronyism, was removed from his post in 2010 by the then President Dmitry Medvedev after facing criticism from the Kremlin. He oversaw a building boom that changed the capital’s image including the construction of modern skyscrapers in the Moscow City financial district.

The former mayor died after a heart operation at a clinic in Munich, Lenta.ru news service reported Tuesday.

Luzhkov was first appointed mayor by President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 and was seen as one of Russia’s most influential politicians. He was elected to the post with big majorities in 1996 and in December 1999, shortly before Vladimir Putin succeeded the ailing Yeltsin as president. Luzhkov briefly looked like a potential challenger to lead the country but dropped plans to contest the 2000 presidential election and ordered his Fatherland-All Russia party to back Putin’s candidacy.

Luzhkov later merged Fatherland into the pro-Putin United Russia party. While he remained a member of the ruling party until his ouster from office, the mayor also maintained his own power base in the capital.

He won re-election for a third time in 2003 and was re-appointed by Putin in 2007, after the president had abolished direct elections for the mayoralty and gubernatorial posts. Luzhkov clashed with Medvedev in 2008 when he called for the return of direct elections, and was fired as mayor in September 2010, after the Kremlin declared that he’d “lost the trust” of the president. He was replaced by the current mayor, Sergei Sobyanin.

Luzhkov and Baturina denied she received preferential treatment for her Inteco company, one of the largest developers in Russia, which won many city contracts. She became Russia’s richest woman during her husband’s stewardship of Europe’s largest capital city, and sold Inteco in 2011. In recent years, the couple were based in Europe, where she owns hotels including The Morrison in Dublin.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the spelling of Luzhkov’s surname in the headline)

(Updates with detail of departure in sixth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net, Tony Halpin

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