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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Scolds Luzhkov in Impromptu Speech

MTPresident Vladimir Putin speaking Friday at Mayor Yury Luzhkov's inauguration at City Hall on Tverskaya Ulitsa. Luzhkov inexplicably had an acidic expression on his face throughout the ceremony. <a href="/stories/2007/07/09/004.html">More photos</a>
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As Mayor Yury Luzhkov was sworn in for a new term Friday, President Vladimir Putin criticized him as an orchestra conductor who couldn't get his musicians to play in unison.

The remarks, made in an apparently unplanned speech, seemed to show that Putin disapproved of some of Luzhkov's activities and wanted to make it clear the mayor was not as powerful as he once was, analysts said.

Luzhkov, who has served as mayor since 1992, was inaugurated for another four years at a City Hall ceremony attended by City and State Duma deputies, religious leaders and his family. Opposition activists with the Union of Right Forces protested outside the building on Tverskaya Ulitsa.

Putin reserved his critical comments for a second speech, which a Kremlin spokesman said he decided to make while attending the ceremony.

Putin prefaced the speech by calling it "out of protocol." He then compared Luzhkov to an orchestra conductor and told of an awkward conductor who could not properly fulfill his duties after long hours of rehearsal. A few members of the orchestra volunteered to take over as conductor, but the conductor kicked them out, he said.

"Such scenes have to be the exception in the Moscow government," Putin said, adding that he hoped city officials would work effectively and be guided by the interests of the ordinary people.

The president also said Luzhkov had wanted to step down when his term ended in December but had stayed on at his personal request. "I wouldn't have insisted on the extension if it hadn't been for the results of his work in Moscow," Putin said, according to a transcript posted on the Kremlin web site. But Putin added Luzhkov should not excuse his errors by saying, "The city is big, there are lots of problems and we have to live with that."

Repeated calls to the City Hall press service for comment went unanswered Friday afternoon.

Luzhkov had a sour expression on his face during most of the ceremony -- in stark contrast to the radiant smiles he had in the City Duma a week earlier, when deputies easily confirmed his nomination by Putin for a fifth term.

In his first speech, a reserved Putin praised Luzhkov for making Moscow "one of the most prosperous cities in Europe" and paying a lot of attention to war veterans, housing construction and medicine.

Putin particularly noted that it had not been easy for Luzhkov to answer some questions asked by City Duma deputies at the confirmation hearing the previous week. "The mayor passed the test with honor," Putin said.

Alexei Mukhin, a political analyst with the Center of Political Information, said Putin had to pay respect to Luzhkov, who is popular with Muscovites, in his official speech, but that he gave way to his personal feelings after that. Dmitry Oreshkin, head of Merkator, another think tank, said Putin had wanted to make sure that Luzhkov understood that his power was limited and that he could be replaced at any time. "Luzhkov is losing his political resources to Putin," he said.

Luzhkov, 70, took the oath of office before Putin's first speech, and City Duma Speaker Vladimir Platonov hung a silver medallion depicting the symbol of Moscow, St. George, around his neck. "This is a symbol of the power and trust that Muscovites place in you," Platonov said, as Luzhkov pressed a hand against his chest in a sign of gratitude.

In line with municipal law, Luzhkov signed an order dismissing City Hall during his inauguration. The current administration will continue its work until a new one is formed, he said.

Luzhkov thanked everyone for the "warm words" and briefly touched on the tasks lying before him, including finding homes for neglected children, raising awareness of youth issues, keeping extremists out of Moscow, and training future Olympic champions. "Our goals are clear, our tasks are set, together we will win," Luzhkov said.

The 40-minute ceremony started 20 minutes behind schedule after Putin arrived late. The president often runs late to events. In the audience were Luzhkov's billionaire wife, Yelena Baturina, and his two daughters and two sons, Itar-Tass reported.

About 15 activists from the Union of Right Forces gathered in front of City Hall some 15 minutes before the start of the inauguration to protest the abolishment of gubernatorial elections and "a virtual ban on mass pickets and marches in our city," the party said in a statement. Riot policemen detained two activists, the statement said.

After speeches ended, Kommersant reported Saturday, the guests raised glasses of champagne and shouted to Putin in chorus: "Thank you!" and "Congratulations!"