Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has sacked veteran Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who had criticised the Kremlin and then defied pressure to resign.

Mr Luzhkov had ruled Russia's capital since 1992 but angered Mr Medvedev by suggesting the country needed a stronger and more decisive leader - a remark seen as favouring Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Mr Medvedev issued a decree stripping Mr Luzhkov of his post while on a state visit to China.

He said Mr Luzhkov had 'lost the trust of the president of the Russian Federation'.

The president stressed that he will decide who will be the next mayor of Moscow.

He said he would consider the proposed candidates 'and I will determine who will lead Moscow'.

Russia's constitution allows the president to sack the Moscow mayor and regional governors at will and appoint a successor without elections.

However, senior officials almost always resign before they are fired.

Mr Luzhkov's office found out about the decree on state television, his deputy told a meeting of the Moscow government.

The 74-year-old had returned yesterday from a week's holiday abroad vowing not to resign.

Famous for his flat working man's caps, his billionaire second wife and his blunt manner, Mr Luzhkov's used city coffers to keep pensions and public services high, maintaining public support despite corruption allegations he always denied.