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Medvedev was right to sack Moscow mayor: Gorbachev

Published on 06/10/2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was right to sack Yury Luzhkov as mayor of Moscow, and should have done it earlier, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said in an interview published Wednesday.

“The departure of the mayor seems right, although late” as Luzkhov had been in power “so long,” he told Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

“I think that (Medvedev) has acted strongly. This is how the president of a country should act,” he added, when asked if the move could be a gesture of independence by the president from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev last week dramatically sacked Luzhkov, Moscow’s mayor for the past 18 years, saying he had lost confidence in him, sparking a relentless campaign against the former mayor and his allies.

The mayor’s dismissal came after a convoluted tug-of-war between the Kremlin and Luzhkov who had chosen to openly challenge Medvedev.

Luzhkov revealed Monday he planned to lead a new political movement to help transform Russia into a democratic country.

Gorbachev, on a visit to Madrid to address a conference on climate change, was asked if Luzhkov could form a credible opposition party.

“If the constitution allows it, it would be welcome,” he replied. “But I think at the moment this is not possible, although when the need for change develops then alternative structures emerge.”

He also reaffirmed accusations against the Russian authorities of backsliding on democracy and the process of reform he began in the 1980s with perestroika.

“Russia has problems. It seems that we are only halfway on the road from the transition to democracy,” he said.

Gorbachev, now 79, became general secretary of the Communist Party, the most powerful position in the Soviet Union, in March 1985.

In the years afterwards he unveiled his groundbreaking perestroika reforms aimed at liberalizing the Soviet Union’s command economy and democratising its authoritarian political system.