Luzhkov Bids to Take Over Former VDNKh Grounds

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has launched a bid to take control of the All-Russian Exhibition Center, tripling the rents for the complex and requesting that the government transfer its stake in the site to the city.

According to the Commersant Daily newspaper, Luzhkov sent a letter to the State Property Committee, which holds a 70 percent stake in the center, requesting the committee hand over its share to the city.

Igor Frolov of the State Duma's property and privatization committee confirmed that the State Property Committee had received the letter.

"VDNKh is a profitable business, and giving it away just like that would be quite tricky," Frolov said.

"The All-Russian Exhibition Center was set up as a state company in 1992 by presidential decree," said Boris Veretennikov, head of the GKO's non-industrial privatization department. "For it to stop belonging to the state, that decree has to be annulled."

The city of Moscow currently owns 30 percent of the All-Russian Exhibition Center, or VVTs, formerly the Exhibition of Economic Achievements, or VDNKh.

Once the showplace for Soviet achievements in agriculture and technology, the 218-hectare, Stalin-era site in northern Moscow has become a profitable host of international exhibitions and retail vendors.

Luzhkov has apparently been tightening the screws on the center's managers for some time. Arkady Kazdin, the head of the center's planning and economy department, said Monday that Luzhkov imposed a punitively high land rent on the center on Jan. 30, rescinding a Jan. 22 contract that outlined a lower rent.

"Luzhkov retracted a signed contract between the center and the city, which set rent at 14 billion rubles [$2.45 million], and reset it at 40 billion [$7 million]," said Kazdin.

VVTs operates at a profit thanks to international trade exhibitions and leasing of space to retailers, Kazdin said.

Frolov said a range of plans have been floated for the site, varying from a resurrection of the Exhibition of Economic Achievements to a huge goods market or a Moscow Disneyland.