Luzhkov May Leave City Hall For Senate

Mayor Yury Luzhkov will leave office by the end of the summer to take a senior government position, a city government official said Wednesday.

Luzhkov, 71, is in negotiations with the Kremlin about his future position, "but so far they have not reached any agreement," the official said on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitive nature of the issue.

"What is certain is that Luzhkov will not retire but will be given a really good position," the official added.

Luzhkov, who has been mayor since 1992, is waiting for "the right offer" from the Kremlin and is likely to leave City Hall by the end of the summer, the official said.

The Kremlin plans to reward Luzhkov for ensuring a high turnout in Moscow in the March 2 presidential election and for bringing in a solid percentage of the vote for President Vladimir Putin's handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, the official said.

Turnout in Moscow was 65.92 percent, and Medvedev captured 71.28 percent of the vote in the city. Turnout at the national level was 69.78 percent, where Medvedev received 70.28 percent.

Citing unidentified sources, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported Wednesday that Luzhkov could replace Sergei Mironov as speaker of the Federation Council on the same day Putin is confirmed as prime minister.

The official, who is familiar with Luzhkov's negotiations with the Kremlin, told The Moscow Times that Federation Council speaker is one possible position on the table for Luzhkov. The official declined to elaborate.

State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said last week that the Duma would confirm Putin for the prime minister's seat on May 8, one day after Medvedev is to be sworn in.

Of "vital importance" to Luzhkov is ensuring that the multibillion-dollar business of his wife, Yelena Baturina, is protected before he steps down from office, the official said. In February, Finans magazine estimated that Baturina, who controls the holding company Inteko, is worth $7 billion.

Luzhkov and his retinue are thought to have close ties to major banks, real estate firms and other large companies.

Should Luzhkov leave office, numerous other city officials would have to tender their resignations -- a scenario many Moscow businesses would like to avoid because of the prospect of building relations with new officials. A City Hall spokesman said Wednesday that he had no information on a reshuffle. "These are just rumors," he said.

The city government source told The Moscow Times that the Kremlin would like to install Putin's chief of staff, Sergei Sobyanin, as Luzhkov's replacement.