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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luzhkov Backer Takes New Heights

In the unbearable June heat, a little-known film director entered the mayoral election battle Wednesday on his own special mission f to defend powerful Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov from his rival, former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko.

Dressed as a medieval knight, Andrei Andronnikov f the self-proclaimed protector of Luzhkov f climbed the Krasnoluzhsky Railway Bridge near Luzhniki Stadium and lit a torch to ward off Kiriyenko. He also waved a wooden sword as he marched along the bridge's main arch on his way to claim the top.

"I like our mayor, and I don't want Kiriyenko to get in his way," Andronnikov said.

The battle for the mayoral post between Kiriyenko and Luzhkov unfolded recently after Luzhkov moved up the election from June 2000 to December 1999. Although the mayor said the move was motivated by economic reasons, it is widely recognized that the earlier elections would enable Luzhkov to secure the mayoral post before he runs for president in June 2000.

After conquering the bridge, Andronnikov took out a chocolate Kinder-Surprise f the egg-shaped candy that referred to the nickname bestowed upon Kiriyenko when he was appointed prime minister last year. Then the 35-year-old little-known politician appeared to have come out of nowhere, and thus media labelled him "the surprise kid."

Andronnikov pulled a toy out of the hollow egg, which turned out to be a little frog f Kiriyenko, he said f and threw it into the water.

"Let the waters of the Moscow River purify the little frog," he said, adding that after the August 1998 economic crisis Kiriyenko should have taken himself out of the political arena for at least 10 years.

The toy, however, missed the water and landed on the dusty shore f its fate unknown.

Andronnikov blamed the August ruble devaluation for killing a film project he had been planning. He denied, however, that his latest symbolic escapade was intended to wrangle funds from Luzhkov.

"I'm not sure [Luzhkov] even knows that I'm here today," Andronnikov said.This was not the first time the filmmaker has donned medieval garb to battle injustice. In July of 1997, he shot arrows at the Kremlin to protest the decline of Russian cinema, blaming government officials for allowing American movies to prevail. And earlier this year, in response to the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia, Andronnikov aimed his arrows at Spaso House, the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Russia.