Court Upholds Mayor's Plea to Reinstate Moscow Police Chief

The Supreme Court's appeals board ruled Tuesday that ousted Moscow city police chief Nikolai Kulikov was fired illegally and can be reinstated.

But hours after the court invalidated a presidential decree ordering Kulikov's dismissal, Interfax reported that guards at police headquarters got orders from acting police chief Viktor Shvidkin not to let Kulikov into the building.

Kulikov, an ally of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, was fired Dec. 2 by then-President Boris Yeltsin at the height of a vicious political battle between Luzhkov and pro-Kremlin forces.

According to Yevgeny Volk, a political analyst with the Moscow-based Heritage Foundation, the court's ruling was correct from a legal standpoint, but in political terms represents Luzhkov's new partnership with President-elect Vladimir Putin and the mayor's weakening independence.

Luzhkov told reporters Tuesday that Kulikov's dismissal was the illegal result of political infighting and that the new ruling conforms to the "legal right" of a region to have a say in the appointment of important officials, Interfax reported.

Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo requested in November that Yeltsin fire Kulikov, criticizing him for failing to prevent deadly terrorist attacks in Moscow, including two apartment building bombings that killed over 200 people. Rushailo and his deputy Igor Zubov also accused Kulikov of ignoring what they called widespread covering up of crime.

The Interior Ministry said it would appeal the latest ruling in the Presidium of the Supreme Court, Itar-Tass said.

This was Luzhkov's second Supreme Court appeal regarding Kulikov's dismissal; on Dec. 22, the court rejected the first one.

Just four days before the latest ruling, Luzhkov met with Putin and, according to the mayor, made progress toward resolving some outstanding disagreements, including Kulikov's status.

In mid-March, Luzhkov made an attempt at rapprochement with the Kremlin by declaring his support for Putin's presidential bid.