Former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, dismissed by President Medvedev for loss of confidence, is reportedly seeking to resettle in Britain. The British Embassy has neither confirmed nor denied the rumor.
Luzhkov's two daughters are already studying in the country. Explaining why he sent his girls to study abroad in November 2010, he said: "We have serious reasons to fear for their safety. Some people hate us, and if someone wants to get to our family, they could go for our children, who are the most vulnerable. We are afraid to keep them in Russia."
The ex-mayor's touching concern for his children was complemented by a show of selflessness: "I am a Muscovite. I was born in Moscow, and I am a patriot. Getting rid of me will not be easy. Why should I leave?"
So said Luzhkov, and then immediately started looking for a new country to resettle in.
He started in Latvia, where he was apparently attracted by the simplicity of the procedure: you only need to invest an equivalent of $400,000 in the republic's economy and own property there to gain residency.
For Luzhkov, this wasn't a problem. He invested the required amount in Rietumu Bank, and he already owns a warehouse in Jurmala, a resort town near the Latvian capital, Riga. Unfortunately for Luzhkov, this was not enough for the Latvian authorities.
In fact, Luzhkov has been blacklisted for criticizing the Latvian authorities while defending the rights of the country's ethnic Russian population seven years ago.
While on an official visit to Riga, the Moscow mayor said: "We think the decisions made by the Latvian government are uncivilized. The prime minister has refused to talk with me. He is afraid. He is afraid of direct questions and serious proposals, and he has yielded to pressure from the uncivilized part of Latvian society."
Governments come and go, but resentment has a longer shelf life in rancorous Latvia.
Luzhkov has fallen victim to the fickle fate of politics. As Moscow mayor, he repeatedly tried to advance to the federal level, hoping to eventually become a global figure. He called Sevastopol, in Ukraine, a Russian city, fought for the rights of the ethnic Russian population in Latvia, and in general posed as one of the most patriotic citizens of Russia.
But his skin-deep patriotism vanished as soon as he lost the president's confidence. It no longer paid political dividends. This is understandable, even if in the first few days after his dismissal Luzhkov promised his "dear Muscovites" that he would remain in public politics, run for mayor again, and never desert his people.
There is nothing new here. Many politicians abandon their election promises as soon as they win. As for Luzhkov, he has no obligations to the electorate now that he is a private citizen.
Still, why has he failed in Latvia but succeeded in Britain? Distance could be a factor.
As a close neighbor, Latvia cannot remain indifferent to what current and former Russian politicians do and say, while Britain is seemingly unconcerned with reputation. In his British exile, the ex-mayor will have the dubious honor of joining the ranks of Chechen rebel Akhmed Zakayev, who is on the international wanted list, fugitive tycoon Boris Berezovsky, presentable businessman Yevgeny Chichvarkin, who waited out his Russian trial in Britain, and Julian Assange, the nemesis of the U.S. State Department.
Britain lets in all sorts, and has not yet extradited any of them.
Not that anyone will be demanding Luzhkov's extradition, but the prudent ex-mayor is seeking as much security as possible. To get it, he is prepared to invest from 200,000 to a million pounds in Britain. The price of admission in Britain is steeper than in Latvia.
You might be asking yourself where the former government official got the money. His wife gave it to him, of course. Yelena Baturina is Forbes-ranking billionaire.
In Luzhkov's career a lesson looms for his colleagues. Even a heavyweight can be forced out of politics. The once powerful mayor is now little more than a punch line.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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