Today the Fifth Meeting of the All-Russia Democratic Assembly opens
in Moscow. It is convened to discuss the forthcoming referendum
in the Chechen Republic. One of the participants of the Democratic
Assembly, the leader of the YABLOKO party Grigory
Yavlinsky is convinced that the preliminary conditions for holding
a referendum in Chechnya have still to be created. In an interview
with the Politbureau journal he expressed his views on how to resolve
the crisis in the republic.
Question: Grigory Alexeevich, what is your attitude
to the forthcoming referendum in Chechnya?
Yavlinsky: In my view the referendum on the Constitution
of Chechnya is badly timed and unprepared, and its consequences
raise concern. If the referendum should be on the agenda, the
following questions should be asked: which would you prefer? To
be a republic within Russia, be granted autonomy within Russia
or be completely independent? I believe that this topic would
be of interest to people and should be covered by the referendum.
My personal opinion is that the majority will say: autonomy within
Russia. And only then should the executive authorities, the parliament
be created to prepare a new constitution. Obviously, regulation
in the republic is only possible through a broad-scale political
process. And the referendum projected by the authorities, as well
as the subsequent elections to republican and local authorities
can become part of this political process. However, the preliminary
conditions which are lacking at present, should be created to
implement this all. It is impossible to comprehensively discuss
in such a short time frame a draft of the new Constitution [of
Chechnya] either in Chechnya or in Russia. The consequences of
an unprepared referendum can also bring dangers: they can aggravate
contradictions inside the Chechen community: they can play into
the hands of the forces interested in civil war.Tension will go
beyond Chechnya, and will be felt all over Russia.
Question: Then why are the authorities speeding
up this process? Perhaps this is related to the rush with the
election campaign [to the State Duma].
Yavlinsky: The authorities see that this is leading to
another deadlock. They also realize that some political process
is required. But they mould this political process according to
their understanding. Yesterday there was war, and today we start
the political process: we will withdraw 1,000 soldiers, and then
it look as if everything is settling down.
Question: How do you perceive the political process
in Chechnya? Do you have your own proposals on how to resolve
the Chechen problem?
Yavlinsky: We need to provide legal backing for the situation
in the republic. In addition, the mop-up operations, tortures,
kidnappings, robberies and violence should be abolished. The federal
centre should promote negotiations between all the conflicting
parties. All this should lead to the organisation of a peace conference
on Chechnya, which should be chaired by the President of Russia.
Everything focused on this idea is right. The conference should
be based on Russian laws and the Russian Constitution. This procedure
does not present any threat to Moscow, as the President will represent
Moscow at the conference. The Chechen participants can all be
important individuals, other than odious figures and criminals.
However, the Chechen participants in the conference will subsequently
determine the policies of the republic. Moscow would instead like
to hold elections right after the referendum - this is not correct.
Question: Who, in your opinion, can compete for
the presidency in Chechnya?
Yavlinsky: I don't know yet. Kadyrov (Ed. The acting president
of Chechnya) will try to become President. The federal centre
will obviously try to find someone else. But all these moves are
artificial. All this has already taken place, and has not yielded
any positive results. Conditions for more or less normal elections
in Chechnya have not been created yet.
Question: What can happen in Chechnya after the
referendum? What is your forecast on the end of war in Chechnya?
Yavlinsky: I think that the situation will remain roughly
unchanged, only tougher. However, you cannot expect anything else.
For the time being the forecast is not very optimistic. The peace
conference should become the first step to ending the war. Russia
has positive experience: it organized the peace talks between
the Tajik authorities and the opposition. Recently the President
of Russia brought together at one negotiating table the President
of Georgia Shevardnadze and representatives from Abkhazia. He
managedto do this.
Question: Can the Council of Europe declare the
referendum in Chechnya illegitimate?
Yavlinsky: As far as I know, these are the plans of the
Council of Europe. But this is very bad for everybody. The lack
of recognition for the results of the referendum will give a new
impulse, a kind of legitimate base for everybody who continues
the war in Chechnya. Failure to recognize the referendum means
that everything remains unchanged. Moreover, the authorities will
be elected in Chechnya, but everyone will say: "we don't
recognize all this, as the referendum was not recognized, and
this means that both the new constitution and elections are void."
This means that everything is void. And the war will continue.
On the other hand, the Council of Europe cannot recognize the
referendum, as the referendum does not comply with elementary
requirements. This is obvious to everyone. By the way, this is
the inevitable consequence of a constant retreat from principles
and values in politics. The political conjuncture led the Council
of Europe to a deadlock because it was ambiguous and inconsistent.
All this led to the disbanding of the Duma's PACE commission was
abolished. It now transpires that the Council of Europe cannot
recognize the referendum: this will merely aggravate the situation.
Press Release, March
17, 2003.The Fifth Meeting of the All-Russia Democratic Assembly
adopted a statement on how to resolve the crisis in Chechnya.
the All-Russia Democratic Assembly: "On our attitude to a referendum
on Constitution in Chechnya and the need to convene a peace conference."
Moscow, March 17, 2003.