So I return to Moscow after a week and a half of fresh air and efficiency in Switzerland to find that my one-woman campaign to unseat Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has picked up quite a bit of momentum in my absence.
The Kremlin, you see, has waged a massive black PR campaign against Luzhkov, using the same tactics and the same person (Sergei Dorenko) they used to torpedo his presidential campaign in 1999. In the exposes of stuff everyone all ready knew about — well, actually, I was kind of surprised to find out that his wife, Elena Baturina, made her billions in construction while her husband was mayor and privatized all of Moscow and also with his help. Shocking, y’all!
But also, on a program called “The Cap of the Matter” (in reference to Luzhkov’s trademark black leather newsboy cap), NTV alleged that, in the midst of the August smog crisis in Moscow, Luzhkov spent a whopping 256 million rubles ($8.3 million) on his precious honey bees. How much did he spend on the sick and disabled choking on forest fire smoke? 105 million rubles ($3.4 million). (Oh, and you heard it here first.)
So what does Luzhkov have to say for himself?
Speaking last night at a United Russia convention, Luzhkov stepped in for the bees, and himself.
“Can you imagine this idiot mayor, that allocated over 200 million rubles to support his own bees?” he said, taking the perspective of the viewer who must be shocked by the NTV allegations. “And all of this isn’t done harmlessly. Right away they announce that, aha! But he allotted half of that for the disabled.”
And, for the coup de grace, the ultimate defense, sounding like a politician admitting adultery, Luzhkov bared his soul:
They say that the mayor decided to allocate money to his little bees. I can tell everyone, and many know this, yes, I am into beekeeping. I find it interesting. It’s a philosophy. It’s a unique philosophy of the life of a family, of the life of the society of bees. But I don’t need government funds for this. On the contrary, the entire produce of my hives, of my bees I send to orphanages.
I don’t doubt it, my dude.
Transcript via Echo Moskvy