Anchor: The arrest of [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky
and the searches at the [public relations] company Strategic Communications
Agency (ASK), which led to the seizure of 700,000 dollars without an owner
as well as files related to the activities of Yabloko, have dealt a severe
blow to the oldest democratic party in Russia and its leader, Grigory
Yavlinsky. Yavlinsky, being the good boxer he is, knows how to take
Solovyov: Good morning, Grigory Alexeevich. Am I right to
assume that the Yabloko party has no chance of being elected to the State
Duma now, as its main financial artery has been severed?
The Yukos clamp-down was no surprise.
Yavlinsky: No, because elections to our country's State
Duma, for the time being at least, are not that directly associated with
Solovyov: But surely the lack of money is bound to affect
Yavlinsky: Yes, of course, this is not exactly a present.
However, generally speaking, we were not completely caught off guard by
this turn of events. We had long suspected that something similar might
Solovyov: Presumably you discussed with Khodorkovsky the
seriousness of his situation and the need to prepare for the worst.
Yavlinsky: It had become clear that everything was
serious after Platon Lebedev [the head of Menatep and one of Yukos's principal
shareholders] was arrested. At that time we could see that this was no
In addition, we were well aware of the system used to organize elections
and understood the system in place in our country. Consequently [Khodorkovsky's
arrest] was not completely unexpected.
Over the past five years I have received more than 1,000 appeals concerning
similar developments all over the country. Only in this case the people
affected were not as famous as Khodorkovsky, and the companies affected
did not rank as the world's fourth largest, either. But generally speaking,
these developments have been affecting everybody starting with small companies
such as pubs.
This is indicative of the existing system. Here we have seen a very graphic
case of that system in action[Khodorkovsky's arrest].
Money seized from firm related to Yabloko
Solovyov: There has been ongoing speculation about the
700,000 dollars seized at the office of a company associated with the
activities of Yabloko. Was the money brought in by secret services agents,
or did that money actually belong to one of the following: Yukos; the
company involved or your party?
Yavlinsky: I know for sure that unfortunately this
money did not belong to our party. That I know for sure. I do not know
if the money belonged to that company [Strategic Communications Agency]
Solovyov: But there was money, wasn't there?
Yavlinsky: The prosecutors have asserted that money
was found and seized. And our deputies at the premises that, although
they did not actually witness the seizure, there was money there.
Total media control
Solovyov: Do you experience pressure on you and your party?
Yavlinsky: Yes, the situation is more complicated
now even than it was, say, in 1999.
Solovyov: What were the party's difficulties in 1999?
Yavlinsky: In 1999, the party was attacked for its
stance on the war in Chechnya. That was an all-out attack by all the media.
There were statements by the Union of Right Forces [SPS] that the Russian
army was regaining its pride in Chechnya and that everybody who saw no
need for a massive war in Chechnya was a traitor. Of course, that military
hysteria was complicated.
Solovyov: You were saying that the situation is even more
Yavlinsky: Now we can see total control over the mass
media. In practice, TV and radio appearances have become very difficult
and have to be coordinated in advance. Furthermore, I will tell you one
totally unexpected thing.
Anchor: Please do.
Yavlinsky: All the political programmes broadcast
today are pre-recorded. Can you imagine ?
Current developments at Yukos and Khodorkovsky only confirm what we
Solovyov: So are you being denied air time?
Yavlinsky: We are no exception here. Our party is not
being treated in any special way. That is if we exclude the raid by the
Prosecutor-General's Office on the office of the company [Strategic Communications
Agency] that has been running our advertising campaign for more than a
year. They seized our documents, the addresses of [regional] headquarters,
addresses of our activists, our organizational charts and all the material
that had been prepared. If we do not consider that something special,
then ...... [sentence incomplete].
Solovyov: That is indeed unusual.
Yavlinsky: Yes that was unexpected, even though the
prosecutor has promised to return all the documents and guarantee confidentiality.
Solovyov: But haven't you been threatened personally? As
far as I can recall, all the elections, in which you have taken part,
have posed a threat to you and your family.
Yavlinsky: In our country, any political activities
become complicated, if they are purposeful and serious. In Russia, many
Stalinist methods of government are still in use.
Yukos boss arrest unwarranted
Solovyov: If we turn to Khodorkovsky, we should not completely
disregard the fact that Khodorkovsky suddenly earned 7.2bn dollars through
methods that were far from lawful, even though they may have been formally
legal at the time. But back then such people as Khodorkovsky were in a
position to make laws suit their needs. Surely Khodorkovsky is one of
the oligarchs and one of the pillars of the system?
Yavlinsky: I am defending Khodorkovsky now, because
I do not see any grounds whatsoever for his imprisonment and I do not
understand why he is in jail. I believe that he is not a killer, or at
least I do not know of such facts. I believe that he poses no danger to
society. I think that, if there are charges against him, it would be enough
to make him sign an undertaking not to leave Moscow and then carry out
the investigation. There is no need whatsoever to organize totally inadequate
intimidation and shows for the whole country.
Solovyov: Yes, his name is Khodorkovsky and not [Chechen
warlord Shamil] Basayev after all.
Yavlinsky: Yes indeed.
Putin unwilling to change the system
Solovyov: I have a different question. Maybe the current
developments fit the traditional scheme of Russian history very nicely,
as the revolution is devouring its children? Maybe now is the time to
deal with the oligarchs?
Yavlinsky: All 30 oligarchs could be sent to Matrosskaya
Tishina [Moscow remand centre, where Khodorkovsky is held]. Khodorkovsky's
name could be replaced by that of Solovyev or Petrov. But that will not
Solovyov :So the system needs to be changed?
Yavlinsky: Of course. It will only degenerate, as talented
people will be replaced by absolute nonentities. That is basically what
is happening today.
Anchor:Yes, but changes in the system always begin by cutting
off the hydra's heads. If we take this as the starting point, do you think
that the latest steps by the president are indicative of changes in the
system? He has accepted the resignation of Alexander Voloshin [Kremlin
chief of staff], who was considered by everybody to be the main advocate
of the oligarchs. Maybe that is signalling changes, as the president has
deviated from classic Russian traditions and said: "I cannot interfere
in the work of the courts and the Prosecutor-General's Office, as I have
no right to do so". Maybe this shows that the system is becoming
Yavlinsky: No this is no way to do that. The reshuffle
is logical, and there is nothing unexpected here.
Solovyov: Is the timing a coincidence - the arrest of Khodorkovsky
and resignation of Voloshin?
Yavlinsky: I do not see anything supernatural. Still,
the president is not revamping the system. He is not changing it. He is
not implementing comprehensive and essential changes in the system.
Secondly, he is not taking decisions to pass laws to ensure transparent
lobbying. He is not taking decisions on transparent and clear funding
of political parties. He is not taking decisions on public television
that would not be subordinate to anybody. He is not taking decisions on
anti-corruption procedures in the formation of the government, the State
Duma's corps of deputies and the administration. He is not taking decisions
on political restrictions to prevent major oligarchs from interfering
in the government's work.
Thirdly, there has been no underlying decision on a truly antimonopolist
policy that would restrict the hungry interest groups that failed to lay
their hands on state assets in the mid-1990s.
Solovyov: Let us take a simpler look at the situation.
Has the influence of oligarchs increased or decreased during Putin's four
years in power?
Yavlinsky: The roles have changed. Some oligarchic
groups have stepped back, while other oligarchic groups have come forward.
Solovyov: So you cannot perceive any structural changes?
Yavlinsky: These large corporate groups have their representatives
in all the structures. They feed them from their hands, while the latter
take decisions favourable for them.
Solovyov: Whom do they feed?
Liberal parties come closer in face of crisis
Anchor: Now that Yabloko is evidently going through a hard
time, the SPS is the only party to come to your support. And your joint
statement with [SPS leader] Boris Nemtsov seemed very bold.
Maybe now is an opportune time for an alliance between
the democratic forces of the country, which are Yabloko and SPS, despite
some fundamental differences between your parties.
Yavlinsky: This process is taking place to the extent
that is necessary. Take our joint statement, for example. Our fundamental
differences still exist, as you said. But now is not
the right time to discuss them. The situation now is such that we need
not discuss lingering differences.
Solovyov: Has President Vladimir Putin personally answered
your call [an appeal to political parties to meet with Putin over the
Yavlinsky: No, he has not. If there is a meeting, I
will discuss these essential issues with the president. As I just told
you, I will tell him that these repressive measures will not take us anywhere
and will not resolve a single problem. Therefore, it seems to me that
efforts to resolve fundamental issues in the country are in this case
counterproductive. That is an exceptionally serious issue.
I understand the wish to demonstrate the power of the state to the oligarchs.
However, the state in this case does not look powerful, but bad. There
is a big difference here. As you know, power commands respect, while violence
only provokes hatred. That is why I would like our state to be really
powerful and serve its citizens, instead of being bad to them and intimidating
Yabloko hopes to win seats in State Duma
Solovyov: Despite all these developments, you expect to
win in the next State Duma election, don't you?
Yavlinsky: Yes, we know that our electorate will support
us. We really need every vote. And the line of our party has been clearly
defined. We are a party of citizens and a party of freedom.
Solovyov: A party of hesitant Russian intellectuals?
Yavlinsky: And intellectuals too and we are proud of
Yukos men on Yabloko list
Solovyov: Why aren't those people on your party's candidate
list? Why does your party list include Yukos people for the first time
in the party's history? Yabloko had always been absolutely independent
in the past.
Yavlinsky: Yes, several people on our party list represent
the oil major. That was Yukos's condition for funding our party. We accepted
that condition. We believe that this open policy is right. We cannot earn
that money ourselves, as the law does not allow us to do so.
Meanwhile, our party line - on decision-making and voting in the State
Duma - does not depend on our financiers.
Yabloko presidential candidate
Solovyov: Grigory Alexeevich, will you take part in the
Yavlinsky: That is quite likely. Yabloko will take
part in the presidential elections. We will determine the forms of that
participation right after the State Duma elections.
Solovyov: What does that mean?
Yavlinsky: There will be a congress and the congress
will decide for example, why don't we nominate you, for example, as presidential