Moscow mayor escapes criticism over birthday in Austria

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Moscow's embattled mayor Yury Luzhkov celebrated his birthday in a luxurious Austrian hotel on Monday, amid speculation at home that he may lose his high-profile job, witnesses said.

Luzhkov, who turned 74, celebrated his birthday in the alpine resort of Kitzbuehel, where he owns a large villa with his wife Yelena Baturina, according to witnesses who asked not to be named.

The news came as the mayor, who has run Moscow for the past 18 years, appeared to have fallen out of favour with the Kremlin.

Luzhkov has become the victim of an all-out media war for his alleged attempts to drive a wedge between President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the run-up to 2012 polls.

Earlier this month, Russia's state-controlled television channels aired prime-time documentaries about Luzhkov, criticising his track record and his wife's business activities.

Medvedev has also talked of a need to recruit a new generation of political leaders.

But Luzhkov, whose latest term runs out next year, has refused to step down early.

© 2010 AFP

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