Russia Suspects a Split at the Top

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, meets with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzov in August. Alexey Druzhinin / AFP-Getty Images

Moscow’s barrel-chested mayor, Yury Luzhkov, has been a force in Russian politics since 1993, but recently he learned who’s boss. When the -mayor thought he could run a highway through a patch of woodland on the city’s outskirts, Dmitry Medvedev blocked it—and when Luzhkov publicly complained, the Kremlin launched a media campaign accusing the -mayor of corruption, intimidation, and even murder.

The mayor vehemently denies everything, and so far he’s kept his job. But a far larger fight may be taking place behind the scenes between Medvedev and his mentor, Vladimir Putin. Although the prime minister has no love for the mayor, he’s reported to be furious at Medvedev’s unauthorized attack. Russians say it may be a sign that Medvedev intends to run for reelection in 2012 rather than giving the job back to Putin. If so, however, Medvedev will have to face down not only Putin but a whole crowd of bureaucrats and businessmen almost as powerful as Luzhkov.