By Ruben Meloyan
Moscow’s longtime Mayor Yuri Luzhkov on Friday denied persistent claims that some of the companies involved in a large-scale redevelopment going on in central Yerevan are controlled by him.
Russian firms are playing a key role in at least one of the redevelopment projects that are rapidly changing the city landscape. It involves construction of a new boulevard, called Northern Avenue, to be lined by expensive residential and office buildings. They are being built in place of hundreds of old houses that have been controversially demolished by municipal authorities.
Armenian media speculation has for years linked Luzhkov with some of the ongoing construction work. The popular Moscow mayor was asked by journalists to comment on it during a visit to the Armenian capital. “God forbid,” he said of his alleged involvement. “Not yet, I would say,” he added ambiguously.
Luzhkov was equally ambiguous when asked about the possible involvement of his wife Yelena Baturina, who owns a Moscow-based construction group and is believed to be Russia’s wealthiest woman. “My wife’s business is her business,” he said. “I don’t interfere in it, despite all the rumors. She is a very efficient businesswoman.”
Russian media and pundits say Luzhkov has been key to Baturina’s spectacular success in business.
Luzhkov spoke to journalists after inaugurating Yerevan’s newly built Moscow House, a business center that will offer office space to local and foreign firms. Officials said work on the property, financed by the Moscow municipality, has cost $10 million.
Speaking at the opening ceremony also attended by Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakharian, Luzhkov said it will strengthen commercial ties between Russia and Armenia. “The Moscow House in Yerevan is not only a symbol of our strategic partnership but also new trends in Russian-Armenian relations,” he said.
(Photolur photo: The new Moscow House in Yerevan.)