Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luzhkov Rejects Land Privatization Bill

In a rare note of discord between Moscow's low-profile City Duma and its high-profile mayor, Yury Luzhkov has vetoed a measure that would have allowed the privatization of certain land in the city.

But don't expect a battle like the one that has been raging between President Boris Yeltsin and the State Duma across town. The bill's sponsor says he has no intention of taking on Moscow's highly popular and powerful chief executive.

The measure would have allowed the privatization of property under major new development projects once the buildings were finished. Sponsors say that would provide more security than the current leasing system the city offers to developers of large projects, thereby encouraging investment.

But the mayor doesn't want to allow any land privatization in Moscow -- even though it is permitted under the Russian Constitution -- until he settles his running dispute with the Kremlin over control of federally owned land in the city.

Meanwhile, City Duma Deputy Mikhail Moskvin-Tarkhanov, who wrote the ill-fated property measure, doesn't plan to rock the boat by seeking an override.

"I, myself, am planning to ask the Duma not to do that," he said. "It only makes sense to pass a law if it is liked by both Duma and the government, since in any other case the law will never work properly or even be sabotaged completely."

It is only the third time in the City Duma's four-year history that Luzhkov has vetoed one of its measures. Like the latest law, the previous two also dealt with land privatization -- and also were written by Moskvin-Tarkhanov.

Luzhkov's written statement on why he rejected the measure is not due out for a few more days. But Moskvin-Tarkhanov said that the mayor clearly wanted the federal-property issue settled before he put any privatization laws on the books.

"He did this because the questions regarding the management of what now is federal land have not yet been looked at. Also, there is no system classifying the land in Moscow according to its quality and location," Moskvin-Tarkhanov said.

By some estimates, one-third of the land in the capital is owned by the federal government, including museums, government offices, ministries, research centers, factories and railroad rights-of-way. Luzhkov has made no secret of his wish to change that ratio.Analysts say the tussle is deeply rooted in the politics of land jurisdiction, taxation and distribution of federal budget funds.

Luzhkov's most visible attempt to transfer federal property into municipal hands was in March 1997 when he requested the ownership of the All-Russia Exhibition Center, or VVTs. The 218-hectare site became a major money generator in the city after it was turned into a bustling shopping area. Luzhkov's request was dismissed by the federal government.

He was more successful on a smaller scale last June, when he managed to force the removal of an old three-story eyesore of a building in front of the Radisson Slavjanskaya hotel. The structure, owned by the Transportation Ministry, had been the subject of a 15-year ownership dispute between the city and the federal government.