Who will get the better of whom?
Some things never change the rivalry between Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and the "father of privatization" Anatoly Chubais, now head of electricity grid UES, proves the point.
The squabbling began when Chubais was head of the privatization agency. Luzhkov said Chubais' privatization plans were robbery and that, rather than finding effective managers for badly managed enterprises, the aim was a pure and simple asset grab. In the end, Chubais won the national battle, but Luzhkov held out in Moscow and carved up the capital's asset pie as he saw fit.
Various flare-ups followed. Because Luzhkov stayed where he was, disputes usually resurfaced whenever Chubais received a new appointment. The battlefield has now shifted to Mosenergo, the Moscow regional branch of UES.
A Mosenergo shareholder meeting, set for Aug. 31, is expected to see UES representatives remove current Mosenergo Director and Luzkhov favorite Alexander Remezov. The UES management said it will cite what it sees as serious violations brought to light by an audit of the company.
Remezov denies any violations and says the problem is that he doesn't suit Chubais and his friends because he opposes attempts to milk Mosenergo's assets. In any case, Remezov's good relations with Luzhkov alone would be enough to rub Chubais the wrong way.
Luzhkov has no intention of giving Remezov up. With Luzhkov's support, Mosenergo minority shareholders this summer obtained two court decisions canceling the upcoming shareholder meeting an order Chubais side is ignoring.
Now, Luzhkov has announced a new tactic to bankrupt UES. Luzhkov called UES an inveterate debtor that owes the Moscow city budget more than 2 billion rubles, and he says he won't agree to Chubais' plan to pay off UES debt to Moscow over several years. Why, Luzkhov asked, should he agree to an extended payment schedule when the city of Moscow has always paid the energy grid on time and in real money?
But Chubais needed only a few hours to launch his counterattack. UES announced that Moscow owes UES money and that an attempt to have a natural monopoly declared bankrupt wouldn't work.
With Luzhkov and Chubais holding their ground, a grand showdown could be in store for Aug. 31. Whatever the result, whoever loses will be sure to challenge it.
Oligarchs fear Mordashova's bad example
The attempt by steel king Alexei Mordashov's ex-wife Yelena Mordashova to get her hands on some of his considerable income has the oligarchs worried. Information appeared this week that some of the newer oligarchs have discussed among themselves what a dangerous precedent it would set.
The worry for the oligarchs isn't so much about having to share some of their wealth with ex-wives, but that such tactics could be used to deal a below-the-belt blow in the fight for business. Oligarchs already suspect that the case of Severstal head Mordashov is an example of underhand tactics organized and financed by Mordashov's competitors, using his ex-wife as their tool.
Luzhkov: A bull's best friend
The Portuguese corrida scheduled to take place Sept. 8-9 in Moscow has stirred up much debate between supporters and opponents of what is for Russia an exotic form of entertainment. Opponents range from pro-Kremlin youth group Idushchiye Vmeste (Moving Together) to animal-rights campaigners and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexii II.
Replying to anti-blood and violence arguments, the corrida's organizers say that in the Portuguese variety of the sport, the bull isn't harmed and that the whole thing is about esthetics rather than blood. But if this isn't a corrida with risk for man and beast alike, which is what many potential spectators want, one wonders what the point of it is. And if spectators will indeed be treated to the promised (gory) thrills, then the show's opponents are right.
In any case, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has made up his mind, announcing this week that the corrida would be banned. But this statement only succeeded in adding fuel to the fire, as tickets are still selling and preparations are still under way. The corrida's organizers say Luzhkov has no legal power to stop the corrida from going ahead and are threatening to take him to court to make him cover their losses.
Ekaterina Larina is the Russia Journal's assistant editor
(E-mail Katya at: email@example.com)