Medvedev praises ‘unprecedented’ plans for Moscow
President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday touted Moscow as a global financial centre in the making as he presided over festivities marking the Russian capital's anniversary with unabashed pomp and ambition.
Speaking from Red Square, the Kremlin chief, who last year dramatically fired the city’s previous wayward mayor Yury Luzhkov, stressed that “unprecedented” plans were under way to make Moscow tourist- and investor-friendly.
“New initiatives have begun being implemented,” he said, referring to his plan to turn Moscow into a leading financial center and a recently-announced reform to push back city limits to allow for the capital’s further development.
“These tasks are truly historic and can be rightly called unprecedented,” Medvedev said in televised remarks.
“They are designed to make Moscow the most comfortable and truly competitive metropolis,” he said, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, and the city’s new mayor Sergei Sobyanin by his side.
Analysts have been sceptical about Medvedev’s vision for Moscow, saying choking traffic jams, red-tape and corruption hardly make his ambitions realistic.
Russia’s wealthiest city of 10.5 million people has traditionally marked its anniversary with an extravaganza of concerts, fairs and fireworks but Sunday was the first time when Red Square became the centerpiece of the city-wide festivities led by a president.
The high-profile celebration of Moscow’s 864th anniversary comes after previous veteran mayor Luzhkov lost his job following an open conflict with Medvedev last year.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff Sobyanin was installed in his place, with analysts saying authorities need a fierce Kremlin loyalist ahead of key parliamentary and presidential elections in the coming months.
The weekend-long festivities will culminate in a huge light show to be performed by David Atkins whose event production company staged similar performances for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
During the show, a French climber known as “Spiderman”, Alain Robert, will scale the Moscow State University, one of the city’s tallest buildings, organisers said.