Moscow's mayor of eighteen years, Yury Luzhkov, has been released of his duty.

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Moscow's mayor of eighteen years, Yury Luzhkov, has been discharged. On Tuesday morning, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev circulated an command to give notice to the mayor at short notice, due to a "loss of confidence." Luzhkov reportedly learned of the order by way of the television, and left his office with no comment in the evening.

He did, however, announce his leaving from United Russia - the country's leading official party, head by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In a written declaration, the now ex-mayor said that he had been "subjected to a fierce attack by the state mass media" and "savage harassment," which "were connected with the task of eliminating the mayor of Moscow from the political arena." He then blamed United Russia for "not giving a member of the party any kind of support; [the party] did not demonstrate any desire to deal with and put a stop to the stream of lies and slander."

Then, on late Tuesday, an entirely unpredicted document was broadcast by the opposition-leaning newspaper the New Times: a scathing letter from Luzhkov to President Medvedev, accusing the latter of "informational terror" and deliberate slander, among other things. The harassment, he says, stemmed from two of Luzhkov's letters concerning the Khimki Forest dispute that were published earlier this month. But the letters, in which Luzhkov backtracked on his original decision to stand with Medvedev in opposition to the forest's destruction, were "not a reason, but an excuse" to get rid of him, Luzhkov asserts. "The task has been set: Get rid of him. The excuse is found. Act!" says the letter.

The Kremlin had already made about as much clear through a mumble campaign of anonymous tipsters to the Moscow press over the past month, as well as a propaganda attack run through the state-run media. Denouncing Luzhkov's Khimki letters as an attempt to drive a wedge between the president and the prime minister, one Kremlin source noted that "it's obvious that such attempts will not go without corresponding reactions."

According to Luzhkov's last written communication, the president's administration had already told the mayor on September 17 about the decision to fire him due to detriment of confidence. Apparently, Luzhkov was asked to resign voluntarily the next day, but when it was clear that wasn't going to happen, he was given an extra week to think it over. When Luzhkov reappeared to his office on Monday morning and declared that he wasn't going anywhere, he already knew what was going to happen the next day.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has translated the text of the letter in full., which hosts the original, has been suffering from bandwidth overload since the letter went online.

Prime Minister Putin said he agrees with Medvedev's decision, and, as he is wont to do, articulated that it was made in strict accordance with the law. "It's perfectly obvious that the relationship between the mayor of Moscow and the president didn't work out, and anyway, the mayor is a subordinate of the president, not the other way around," Putin said.

Several opposition activists were detained outside the mayor's office on Tuesday evening, including one Other Russia member who attempted to unfurl a banner reading "Luzhkov, as you leave, break the fence." The fence in question referred to the recently-erected barrier blocking off Moscow's Triumfalnaya Square, where oppositionists gather on the 31st of each month to hold rallies in defense of free assembly as part of the Strategy 31 campaign. About 50 demonstrators were present outside the mayor's office in total, including members of Solidarity, Yabloko, and the United Civil Front.

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