In his 18-year tenure as Moscow’s mayor, Yuri Luzhkov transformed the gloomy post-Soviet capital into a bustling global city—and the site of a quarter of Russia’s economic output last year. But the independent-minded mayor fell out with the Kremlin, faced allegations of corruption, and was sacked by President Dmitry Medvedev in September.
To replace him, parliament has endorsed Sergei Sobyanin, 52, an insider with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. While Sobyanin is free of corruption charges, he comes to power undemocratically: Putin abolished elections for mayors and governors while he was president (he served two terms but was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a consecutive third, and so became PM). Sobyanin has vowed to clean up the corruption and bureaucracy that “could devaluate many if not all Moscow’s competitive advantages.” He may well be the man to fix some of the problems, including notorious traffic jams. But there is a lot at stake: as a “100 per cent Putin man,”
Sobyanin’s success or failure could have an impact on Putin’s expected run for a third presidential term in 2012.