Grigory Yavlinsky: Good morning. I propose that we start
right away with your questions. As we like to say, you
have the questions and we have the answers.
Question: How do you assess the defeat of your party
at the elections?
Yavlinsky: We think that we managed to implement a number
of principled tasks in the electoral campaign. We submitted
an alternative budget, where we listed our proposals on
radical tax cuts, which is one of the key areas. We also
proposed a number of other solutions in our alternative
budget to reduce the shadow economy and resolve a number
of other issues related to debt repayment, the devaluation
of the rouble and other very important elements of economic
policy. This budget was submitted to the Duma. You can
find it at Yabloko's site and read it for yourself.
It was the first time in Russia's politics that a political
party had submitted a virtually complete document of this
kind. The second aspect of our electoral campaign concerns
our declaration on the situation in Chechnya with a call
to settle politically the situation there.
It was made when it became clear that the campaign in
Chechnya was no longer an anti-terrorist operation, that
it was a large-scale war, a war of retribution, a conquest;
when it became clear that the military actions was bringing
more and more refugees and victims and that the terrorists
had not been punished, prosecuted, caught or liquidated.
Our declaration was firm. It included a call that was
ignored by most people: I would like to draw your special
attention to it - a demand to adopt laws regulating the
actions of Russian troops in Chechnya. In the declaration
we demanded a publication by the Supreme Commander of
all the decrees issued in connection with the war in Chechnya.
Furthermore we called for the abolition of the presidential
decree on the military conscription of soldiers in their
first year of service to the war front: such a decree
leads to the virtual slaughter of all these soldiers.
We spoke about this issue throughout the campaign: we
even conducted press conferences with the soldiers' mothers,
so that nobody had any illusions about the firmness of
our position, as it was always mixed on the central television
channels. Only attendants at our meetings witnessed the
full scope of the declaration. It was very important to
Thirdly, we absolutely rejected the illegal developments
in St Petersburg. A precedent of new illegal actions has
been created: the manipulation and theft of voting bulletins
determined the terms of the elections and, consequently,
the choice of actual Governor. Why should the State Duma
be elected, when the Legislative Assembly of St Petersburg,
Russia's second capital, can permit such developments?
We managed to secure corresponding resolutions of the
Supreme Court of the RF and even the Presidium of the
Supreme Court of Russia.
Let me move on to the next point. During the election
we managed to demonstrate to society the threat posed
by a Union Agreement with Byelorussia. The world and the
country as a whole saw this - saw how we left the hall,
when Lukashenko delivered his speech in the Duma. Forty
per cent of the members of the faction, including its
leaders, did not ratify the agreement.
Lastly, we refused to kiss the rulers' hands. We did
not join the rank and file and join the common wave of
military-nationalistic hysteria. Nevertheless people constantly
sought our direct support for the new Prime Minister,
but we retained our independence and political line.
We think that we were right to adhere to all the main
aspects of our electoral campaign. We are satisfied that
we managed to do this. Our receipt of 6% of the vote -
I don't know whether this is related to fraud and falsification,
I cannot say anything here, but I admit that this was
the level of support for Yabloko - was related to the
over-riding atmosphere in the country, the specifics of
the activity of the mass media and our refusal to co-operate
with the Kremlin, the government and the governors' bloc.
We retained our electorate. The number of votes gained
by Yabloko today equals the number of votes that we obtained
at previous elections. We believe that this is our just
dessert. We think that it is good that we managed to retain
our electorate. However, we expected to gain more support
and wanted to achieve more. If the electoral campaign
had not been held during a state of war and did not start
with explosions of blocks of flats - which drove the society
into such a state that it became difficult to conduct
any elections at all - if this campaign had not been built
around one man and had not been implemented through different
forms of manipulation, Yabloko could have scored results
that tallied with the surveys. Then we would have been
twice as large.
Q.: Sergey Stepashin said that your results may on the
whole be attributed to the fact that your votes were appropriated
by the SPS (the Union of Right-Wing Forces), as your programmes
are virtually identical for any ordinary man and even
for an expert. Do you agree with him here? Do you think
that the SPS can be your closest ally in the Duma?
Yavlinsky: You can see the programme of the SPS, if you
look outside this window. It doesn't require any books
or articles. This is what we have today. This is privatisation
conducted through auctions involving collateral and investment
tenders, the distribution of property among a narrow circle
of individuals. This also represents the defaulting and
bankruptcy of the country. This is the SPS programme.
It did not change at all. Nothing new was introduced here.
Our programme is provided in our budget, which I mentioned
The SPS clearly adopted the right nationalistic position,
which is very tempting, especially for young people. Young
people in all countries, including your countries, very
easily swing to right-wing nationalistic and left-wing
nationalistic directions. It prefers such extremes. I
can only add that if Yabloko had conducted at least one
concert, as the right forces did, it could have ended
its electoral campaign immediately. Yabloko's traditional
electorate would not have accepted such actions.
The SPS exploited the niche that had previously only
been exploited by Zhirinovsky. But the SPS still differed
from Zhirinovsky and managed to attracted more votes.
Our electorate remained with us: they did not take anything
from us. We did not manage to take more. This is the truth.
Q. Don't you think that your position, which was absolutely
steadfast according to your words, was destroyed by Stepashin's
Yavlinsky: I can say that my declaration was firm due
to the document that was published. This position was
not expressed verbally: it was written down on paper.
What is written there is written. If we turn to other
speeches, I am ready to accept that many subsequent declarations
that attempted to explain my words were connected with
a sense of terror. My declaration was made at a time when
the wave of militarism and nationalism rose to such a
level that I simply could not refrain from making this
declaration. And the wave was already overflowing.
All the television worked as military TV. I realised
that it really represented a challenge to public opinion.
I could not wait even one day. As I made this declaration
from Ulan-Ude, it was partially my fault that I did not
have the opportunity to co-ordinate all the details with
my colleagues. For example, this declaration might have
been unexpected for Stepashin. I should have discussed
it with him in advance. But I could not, as I was on a
long campaign tour.
By the way, I covered 49,000 kilometres in Russia this
time. This is the whole equator. I did not have a chance
to act differently, I had to make this declaration at
that time. Probably there were attempts at some form of
interpretation. Although I have to admit that in general,
compared to the level of resistance from the political
elite and the establishment, my colleagues did not exceed
any limits. That is how I would finish the sentence. I
could have expected more criticism. But you can imagine
Russian political life, if you are here now. I also had
to face the task of preserving the party and continuing
the electoral campaign. It would have been simply a sham
for a politician to merely persist in my position, so
that everything would collapse and would not progress.
This should not have been done. This is the limit. I kept
it all in my declarations.
It is easy for me to say, as some of you were at my press
conferences during my election tour all over the country,
and not here, where my speeches were always blurred on
television and I could not speak out. Two minutes here
and two minutes there, and Svanidzye (Ed. a popular TV
political observer) interviews you as if he were a KGB
colonel. He provokes a reciprocal reaction. You stop thinking
about Chechnya, but instead feel that you are being questioned
by a KGB colonel and you are afraid of him. And when this
TV channel works in this way, while the first channel
is totally inaccessible..... I described my plan when
I appeared on Doryenko's programme that one time. I had
this very text. It was at the very beginning.
I had already spoken about Maskhadov. Dorenko told me
that Maskhadov did not control anything. I said: "Similarly
Yeltsin does not control anything. So what should we do
now?" This was right after the murder of a deputy
of the State Duma in St Petersburg. I said: "Yeltsin
says, "don't kill deputies", but they are killed.
Do you mean that we must not speak with Yeltsin now? But
they speak with Yeltsin". Such a position on Chechnya
frightened not only party members, but even television
Q.: Do you think that the union with Stepashin took some
of your electorate away?
Yavlinsky: Maybe someone was repelled and maybe someone
was attracted. This is politics. If we have to overcome
constant reproaches that Yabloko is a sect, we will inevitably
have to confront such things. Thereis no well-known politician
in Russia who would not be tarnished by Yeltsin. As in
Russian folklore, he violated everybody that he managed
to grab. But he grabbed them all. One individual managed
to leave him at the right time, as early as 1990. All
the others were grabbed by him. Give me a single name...
You won't be able to do it! A name that is well known.
Thank God, there are such people in general, they are
in the streets. There are not many: about 6% were not
violated by Yeltsin. But this is also not very much. About
10% in Moscow and 6% all over Russia. But I don't know
a single pure politician. They were all present and participated.
If we are to speak about Stepashin, I would say that
I had to take such a decision - Stepashin refused to tolerate
the destruction of a hospital in Buddenovsk. If you don't
know the story I can tell you. When Basayev (Ed.: one
of the heads of Chechenian terrorists) took hostages there,
a plan was hatched to blow up all the hospital with all
the children and women and Basayev, and then claim that
this had been done by Basayev. Then you will never find
the truth. And what would have changed, if it had been
exploded? But Stepashin refused to let this be done and
Q. Many people say that you achieved this result at the
Duma elections, because you have always been in opposition,
while the people actually want to see someone who can
do something. Do you think you may have to change your
approach in future?
Yavlinsky: We certainly have to do more practical things.
But first of all we have to find a place where we can
do this. Our government is like a brothel: once you enter,
you find it very difficult to say later on that you just
popped in for a cup of tea. You would find it impossible
to explain to your wife. The same thing goes for our electorate:
after working for this government, I would find it impossible
to explain subsequently that I went there to work and
not to steal. This is very difficult. This is a cliche
that is really used on a psychological level. This is
a psychological code. It works as follows: some people
say: "We have defaulted on debt payments: what have
you done?" And we opposed this move. "We have
made inflation 2,500%. And what have you done?" We
opposed this step. "We conducted voucher privatisation,
which led to a halving of production. And what have you
done?" And we were in opposition.
And the people Sergei Stepashin told us about feel: "look,
these people have always been doing something, while those
have always been in opposition". And this is perceived
by the people. This gives those people some weight and
makes them a party of industrious people. Ok, so mistakes
were made, as Chubais says. Such mistakes as default,
the bankruptcy of the country, a decline in production
by 50%, inflation and 80% barter. These are "small"
mistakes...However, I am ready to agree here: yes, we
have to take practical steps.
In particular, I can invite you all you to Sakhalin to
see how the production sharing agreement that we initiated
is being implemented there. We are a parliamentary party.
We work in parliament and use parliamentary methods. I
don't think that only the government works. This is a
Soviet habit to thinks that people only work in government.
Q. But the matter is over. We already know the results.
We can hold long discussions about the reasons. On December
19, 1999 the first phase was over: the second, which will
probably last until June, has begun. I believe that the
authorities will fight until the end. How will you prepare
for the second round of the fight? There are pessimistic
assumptions that they will continue using the mass media,
conduct fraudulent elections and attack potential candidates,
etc. Have you begun to prepare for this fight? How?
Yavlinsky: This is virtually another factor behind the
recent electoral campaign. Yabloko actually ended up campaigning
against two blocs of the criminal nomenclatura. The first
bloc was represented by the Kremlin and the government
and another by the governors. Correspondingly, they applied
all the methods that are used in such cases. I have to
tell you that in reality it is virtually impossible to
combat democratically the means of manipulation and pressure
practised by the criminal nomenclatura. There are no such
Therefore, I would like to stress once again that 6%
is a good result. This means that, however you reduce
the result, you will always have 6%. Speaking about the
future, I conduct consultations on this work. But I can
firmly state one thing: in the presidential election campaign,
in view of the deadline and situation, my position will
be clearer and firmer than it was during the Duma elections.
The 100 days of the new Prime Minister are over. In addition,
I would like to explain to everyone that there was one
more element: everyone expected more toughness, but 100
days of the new Prime Minister were over only by the end
of the Duma campaign.
Consequently, it is difficult to offer complete assessments
during these 100 days. This will be different in the presidential
campaign. There I will speak very firmly and make everything
quite clear. What will I say? This is very simple - that
this is the power of a criminal nomenclatura: the main
challenge for Russia is how to extricate itself from this
situation. The situation is very simple here: the criminal
nomenclatura will use any methods - war or anything else
- to resolve its political tasks. The main issue here
concerns the search for ways out of this situation both
in economics and politics.
I think that the presidential elections in 2000 boil
down to a choice between the different solutions proposed
by the candidates. This is the crux of the presidential
campaign and in general the choice that Russia has to
make. That is what I will talk about. But I will conduct
the campaign under existing circumstances. I conducted
such a campaign in 1996, where there were well-known conditions.
I think that this time they will be tougher.
Q.: You said that the whole campaign revolved around
one man. What can you say about him? You met him several
days ago. What do you think that this man will do in the
presidential campaign and in the Duma?
Yavlinsky: I don't know what will happen in the Duma.
He did not discuss this issue. He asked us what we would
like from the government. I spoke about Chechnya, the
economy and the falsifications. I spoke about these three
Q.: What do you mean by falsification?
Yavlinsky: I said that I wanted to draw his attention
to my concerns about the falsification, that we had collected
material that would be submitted to him.
Q.: How did he react?
Yavlinsky: He said Ok. And what else could he say?
Q.: That there were no falsifications. And what about
Yavlinsky: He said that everything was going to plan.
Q.: Do you know what he might do next?
Yavlinsky: I think that you should ask him. I should
not comment: I am not a speaker or his press secretary.
Q.: If Stepashin decides to participate, what you will
Yavlinsky: In what?
Q. The presidential elections.
Yavlinsky: He said that he did not plan to participate.
He told me that the day before yesterday. However, if
he were to change his mind and decided to participate,
I would be more than ready to discuss this issue with
Q.: Would you withdraw your candidature?
Yavlinsky: I don't understand.
Q. If he changes his mind.
Yavlinsky: If he changes his mind, I will be ready to
discuss this issue with him.
Yavlinsky: And what? Discuss it. And withdraw either
his candidature or mine. But, and I repeat once again,
the day before yesterday this question was resolved.
Q: People know that you are soft. You have a permanent
electoral base. This is the intelligentsia. Your sessions
are held at a completely different level. But you lose
with this background, as the population currently wants
a "strong hand", and it would seem that Putin
is meeting this demand. Which electorate can you rely
on apart from this 6%?
G.Y. We shall see what happens in the summer. If Western
news agencies are honest about Chechnya, we will see what
happens in the summer.
Q. What will happen?
Yavlinsky: We will witness a different attitude. Let
us see. How has the situation evolved over the past nine
months? This is not a long period, is it? And who was
the main presidential candidate in April 1999?
Yavlinsky: Yes, Luzhkov. And in July?
Yavlinsky: That is correct. In August Stepashin was becoming
such a candidate. Now Putin is such a candidate. Every
two months on average the political elite is absolutely
certain about who will become the next president. It is
absolutely clear who will be president! There are six
months to go before the elections. And there is time to
change everything three times.
Q. Do you believe that attitudes on the war have been
Q.: Did you feel that during the campaign?
Yavlinsky: Yes, both during the campaign tour and in
the polls. When I made my declaration, only about 18%
opposed the war. This figure has risen to 56%. This is
quite a different situation. Just remember how you bombed
Kosovo: it appeared initially that everyone agreed: then
people began demonstrating their disagreement more and
more. It is clear: when a war begins, the propaganda reaches
a climax. In our country the propaganda is related to
the explosions of blocks of flats.
Q. I am sorry to make this statement, but one merely
needs to blow up two or three more houses in April-May,
and that is that.
Yavlinsky: I would recommend you not to make such forecasts.
Q. If Putin and his people see that he has reached a
certain peak today and then may fall back slightly, surely
they may decide that his chances would be better if they
held presidential elections today?
Yavlinsky: Anything can happen in Russia. With regards
all these versions, I can say that anything can happen
in Russia. Anything! Anything can be invented, even things
that seem impossible. I develop my policies, proceeding
from the premise that anything can happen in Russia. If
you asked my close friends how I reacted to comments that
I would obtain 12-14% in the elections, they would answer
you that I honestly said that we would probably get 5%.
Everyone told me "you must be joking"! I said
"maybe I am, maybe it's a joke". But I had a
feeling that we had to pass the 5% barrier. I even said
this at press conferences several times. Everyone thought
that I was joking. But I was not. I know what Russia is.
And in September it was proposed that I swear my allegiance
to Putin. I said that this was impossible. I am not going
to sack anyone in February. Similarly I am not going to
swear allegiance to anyone. We shall see what happens.
I was told: "Ok, that's it".
Q. What do you think now about the explosions - were
they really terrorists'?
Yavlinsky: I do not know and still don't know.
Q: Then you said that it was 90% connected to Chechenian
Yavlinsky: Yes I think that this is connected with Chechnya.
I don't know who did this. However, no explanations have
been forthcoming. But I would like to draw your attention
to the following sentence from Putin: "OK, it remains
unclear who carried out the explosions, but they invaded
Daghestan". That was his statement. We have to find
the quotation, maybe you know... This is his own quotation.
Time passes, but we still have received no answer about
the explosions. There is no trace of Basayev or Khattab,
the terrorists or those who carried out the explosions:
no information is forthcoming.
Q. If anything can happen, can you imagine a situation
where you might work as Prime Minister under President
Yavlinsky: Anything can happen in Russia, but not with
Q. But can you imagine such a development? He had a weak
economic programme. Everyone thinks that he will use the
programme of the Union of Right-Wing Forces.
Yavlinsky: If he resolves the problem with Chechnya,
if observation of human rights becomes one of his prime
goals, if he imposes civil controls on the secret services
and is satisfied with my economic programme - then I would
certainly be ready to work with him.
Q. Could you tell us how you plan to work in the Duma?
How far can you go with co-operation?
Yavlinsky: I can co-operate on specific problems.
Q. Do you mean that you will be independent?
Yavlinsky: Of course. We are always ready to co-operate
on certain issues. And we will also see what happens to
the "Fatherland" and "All Russia"
Q. They said that they would create a faction and two
Yavlinsky: But they have only 60 people.
Q. A faction and two groups.
Yavlinsky: Ok, let us look at this calmly. You have the
Regulations of the State Duma, which they clearly failed
to notice, as they are inexperienced here. You can only
create deputy groups if you have 35 people. But "Fatherland
- All Russia" has only 60 people in total. Therefore,
I don't know how they will create a faction and two deputy
groups. They want to, but I don't know whom they will
ally themselves with to achieve this goal. They won't
even be able to create two groups. If they want this so
much, they may be told: you have one faction and that
is all. If you want a group, it should have at least 35
Moreover the faction is where Primakov is. Because he
was elected by the people. It should be not Morozov, but
rather the individual elected by the people. If Primakov
leaves - and he has been thinking about whether he should
go to the Duma or not - there may be no faction at all.
They are not thinking this through. It remains unclear
how they split up within the bloc. I think that "All
Russia" will now merge with "Unity". There
will be such a big unity of bears (Ed. the "Unity"
bloc is also called the "Bear"). But they both
still lack 50% of people to obtain half the Duma.
Q. Do you think that we will see a different balance
in the Duma now?
Yavlinsky: Politics in general will be different: it
will veer heavily towards a form of national patriotism.
Zhirinovsky will have company here, he will be supported
by significant forces. I understand, of course, the problems
with analysis, especially in the West. When we have a
party which nobody understands and knows what title to
give it, we call term such a grouping centrist. But this
is a big exaggeration. They are not centrists. Incidentally
it is very difficult to be centrist. This means a strong
programme and a very difficult political line. I can't
imagine how Karelin (Ed. the leader of the "Unity",
former Olympic wrestling champion ) can be a centrist.
Maybe a "central figure"...
Q. Do you have another word? Can you explain what it
Yavlinsky: I can explain it in my own way. I simply read
newspapers, where they write about "centrists".
That is funny! How can they be centrists? There have never
been any centrists in Russia. But we are looking a different
issue, which I will try to explain.
Russia remains to a large degree a Soviet country. This
is the choice of "Unity", the communists and
partially the "Union of Right-Wing Forces".
This is the Soviet choice of the Soviet people. The parties
are formed through Soviet methods, just as Zhirinovsky's
party was created in its time.
If the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union had existed for another ten years, it would
have held virtually the same kind of elections - they
would have created the "Bears", "Hares"
or something else. The "Bear" with a "human
face", such as socialism (Ed. allusion to the Soviet
cliche "capitalism with a human face"). And
everybody would choose that model. For there is a specific
element in Russian culture - I would call it a carnival
political culture - this is a culture of pretenders and
When people don't want to engage in serious analysis,
think and calculate, they are just given something and
that is it. But if you are seriously interested in knowing
who won these elections, I will tell you - the victorious
party is called ORT (Ed. the state television channel).
It was the winner. This is the truth. It would be correct
to draw attention to the amount of air time accorded to
the right-wing forces and "Unity" on this channel.
Unfortunately, you don't have any analysis of fairness
and honesty. There is a perception in the world that elections
should be held on time.
Consequently I have to inform you that ever since 1937
all elections in the Soviet Union have been held on time.
The USA may be only the country to have kept the same
perfect timing. On the right day and at the right time.
And 98% of the population participated in the elections,
although this did not mean anything. Because it is not
correct in Russia to say that the most important thing
is to hold elections. What are these elections? How are
they held? Were they fair and honest? Here again we see
absolutely incomparable amounts of air time provided on
different channels for different parties. Governors notify
the Prime Minister by phone three days before the elections
on the percentage of the electorate that Unity will garner
in their region: "in Saratov Region "Unity"
will get 20%". "Next", says Putin. "In
Smolensk Region it will get 50%". "Well done!
What is your name?" This would lead to resignation
in any other country. All the political forces would join
forces and dismiss such a Prime Minister. In our country
this is how it is done. These are important factors. If
we don't want to make the mistakes that we made in the
past with economic reforms, this factor should be analysed
Q. Your promotional clips represented a glimpse into
the past, they lacked power. Will you change anything
Yavlinsky: These were probably our best clips for the
four campaigns. But we are ready to admit that they also
... Basically our plans for the electoral campaign were
devised before the destruction of the blocks of flats.
Certainly, with this backdrop, the power of our promotional
clips waned immediately. I would like to put the following
question to my fellow democrats all over the world: how
would liberal democrats in any other country conduct their
campaign, if blocks of flats containing sleeping tenants
had been blown up. What clips should be shown? I have
no idea. I don't know whether they conduct elections at
such times. I don't know what people think about at such
Q. That is why I asked about the possibility of new explosions.
Yavlinsky: You were absolutely right to ask this question
Q. If you don't psychologically prepare yourselves for
such events, neither you or anyone else will be able to
build their election campaign.
Yavlinsky: I can tell you only one thing. I can prepare
myself, but other people cannot prepare themselves and
I can't prepare them. I faced such a situation. It happened
on a Thursday. I was on tour. My assistant came in early
one morning and said, "A block of flats exploded
in Moscow." Later it transpired that a shop had been
blown up. He did not know that. I asked him: "Were
there people inside?" He says that there probably
were. He came back in half an hour and said that it was
a shop. But I felt during this half hour that there wouldn't
be any elections. How will people vote in this case? What
they will think? Whom they will vote for and against?
Why, what and how - it is impossible to understand anything.
For half an hour I lived with a feeling that this destroys
everything that happened. Such a psychological shock -
people sleeping, a full block of flats. Please understand...
I had never heard about such things. I know about explosions
at railway stations, markets, but to blow up people, when
they are sleeping...
Q. We know this very well in Italy. The term is a strategy
of tension. It was conducted coldly for eight years by
political groups which had specific political goals. That
is why this is not a news for us. This is news for Russia,
but not for Italy.
Yavlinsky: Please forgive me, but this is also not new
for us. We experienced this situation from approximately
1929 to1953. This is eight years for you and almost 30
years for us - the constant reproduction of an extraordinary
situation. Looking for spies and saboteurs and then war,
and then looking for enemies. Recently Russia celebrated
the 120th anniversary of this Comrade (Ed. Stalin).
Q. You have said that we will witness a national-patriotic
mood within the Duma. Do you expect to see other trends
emerging in the new Duma? For example, of federal suicide?
Now governors are directly elected in the Duma. They are
strong. They will demand more autonomy, and the centre
- the executive authorities, Yeltsin and Putin - will
be inclined to afford them such power. Last year one of
the criminal governors, Kirsan Ilumzhinov (Ed. the President
of Kalmykiya) said that he was about to quit Russia. There
are other regional heads like this within "Unity".
Do you think that their inclinations will be more patriotic
Yavlinsky: I think they will be more patriotic - national-patriots.
Because their dependence on Putin in Moscow will be incomparable
with their dependence on Ilumzhinov, whom they have already
abandoned forever. This is Russia.
Q. You said that neither the former nor the latter have
enough seats to reach 50%. Yabloko will become a welcome
companion here. Consequently you are likely to receive
tempting offers. Are there any circumstances where you
would agree to co-operate with some of these parties?
Yavlinsky: Yes, on specific issues.
Q. Could you tell provide more detail, please.
Yavlinsky: Certainly. We will submit a draft law on tax
cuts. Anybody who supports this law will be considered
our allies. We plan to introduce a real Land Code, which
will designate land as private property. Anybody backing
this Code will be considered our allies. We would like
to introduce real anti-monopoly legislation. Similarly
all backers will become our allies.
Q. What are the chances for land reform?
Yavlinsky: In this sense I don't know how Putin will
Q. Does he say anything on this issue?
Yavlinsky: No, nothing. I have only mentioned a few issues,
but I could continue. If such problems are resolved, then
we will definitely support these moves and will seek some
compromises, so that they are adopted by the Duma. If
they submit anything of this kind, we will support such
steps. Why not? We will propose Stepashin as Chairman
of the State Duma. If we get support here, then we may
also provide support on other issues. We are the oldest
(sorry, you can't say this without a smile in Russia,
but that is the truth) parliamentary party in Russia.
We are the oldest, together with the communists. No other
party is in its third term in the Duma. The communists
have been here for over 100 years, but that's another
Q. Even though Putin does not say anything and you are
not his press secretary, what do you think about him?
Would you be concerned, if he suddenly became president?
He is very careful, but nevertheless you must have a clear
opinion about this man.
Yavlinsky: I haven't had enough time to develop a clear
opinion. I would like to see at least if his words correspond
with his deeds.
Q. He uses different words.
Yavlinsky: Secondly, I would like him to use the same
words, which lie within the framework of a certain direction.
I have told you which direction and have explained where
I am ready to co-operate with him. I think that it is
very important for Russia today to create the institutions
of a civil society. If he spends all his efforts creating
an independent court in Russia, we could say that this
is absolute progress. If he introduced changes to the
Constitution that sought to create a situation where presidential
power is not unlimited but balanced, this must be supported.
If he really took a decision on the key economic issues
- on repayment of debts, a transparent budget, protection
of property rights and the termination of property transfers
through tenders and investment auctions, I would say that
this is absolutely right. However, he has not done such
things. We will wait and see.
Q. Let me put this question slightly differently. How
likely is it that he will do such things?
Yavlinsky: Not very likely. What do you think?
Q. Yesterday I expressed my concerns about Putin.
Yavlinsky: And I have said the same things, haven't I?
Simply I would like our Prime Minister to go in the right
direction, instead of closing the door in his face, so
that tomorrow he reads articles in your newspapers that
Yavlinsky did this or that. It is important for me to
continue a dialogue with him - a firm dialogue, but one
that leads in a direction that is important to me. If
he refuses all this, then we will be looking at a different
issue. I believe that real steps are important rather
than mere pretence. Putin is really a new man. However,
he exerts a large influence now and has a real opportunity.
He can do virtually anything. He can create an independent
court, for example, or he could tackle Gazprom's problems.
Q. If he wants.
Yavlinsky: Yes, if he wants to. His predecessors could
not do this.
Q. And he will not be able to.
Yavlinsky: First of all, he should have such intentions.
And then we shall see whether he can do this or not. But
before his appearance, even if someone wanted to do something,
it was useless, as noone wielded the power held by Putin
- neither Chernomyrdin, as he was a part of the system,
Kiryenko who was simply a nobody or Primakov.
Q. Aren't you exaggerating Putin's possibilities? You
said that ORT won the elections. I would say that it was
BAB - Boris Abramovich Berezovsky. Yesterday he called
a press conference and explained to us all that he
personally won the elections together with the best journalist
in the world Mr. Doryenko (Ed. infamous journalist on
the ORT channel).
Yavlinsky: If they had worked at Ren-TV channel (Ed.
a minor TV channel), it is unlikely that they would have
won the elections. But he does not even hide the fact
that this story is Berezovsky's project. He said that
the Bear" would appear and the "Bear" exists.
No one argues.
Q. Surely it is an exaggeration to claim the ORT channel
won the elections? Do you think that the electorate is
that stupid? He did not win in 1991, when ORT, the "Ostankino"
channel at the time, opposed Yeltsin. There is also the
NTV channel, in particular the debates. I know that ratings
in large cities were quite good. And I am not talking
about the local channels here. It is incorrect to say
that it involved Soviet-type propaganda (though by nature
it was), but it was not in terms of impact.
Yavlinsky: I can't agree with you. If you look at the
scope of ORT's broadcasting and compare it with that of
NTV, you'll see that they are incomparable. They differ
significantly. If you had toured Russia's regions with
me, you would have been surprised to see that NTV in the
regions is almost the same as RenTV in Moscow. It is more
of a channel for enthusiasts, which nobody watches. It
exerts no influence at all. This is only television for
Moscow Region. They try, they do a lot, but they are broadcast
through small private stations, at another time, often
Moreover, Doryenko really pulled off a brilliant coup.
He made his programme in the form and at the time of the
news programme, which was believed to provide the absolute
truth by the Soviet people for 50 years. He made his programme
as a Soviet news programme. Not like Kiselyov (Ed. popular
journalist of the NTV channel) with his "Vox Populi".
Whom did he made it for? Doryenko made his "Vremya"
programme at 9 p.m. on Sunday (Ed. the official news programme
was shown at this time in Soviet times) - while all the
other programmes (Ed. owing to broadcasting time differences
and channel coverage) simply do not reach other regions.
In the news we saw Shoigu (Ed. the Minister of Extraordinary
Situations, and number one on the "Unity" list)
who said: "Sorry I could not come and see you in
the Far East, I am busy here, we are wiping out all the
fucking bandits), I have so much work. I cannot come and
visit you, please forgive me. And this is also time. In
this sense the efficacy of this channel is huge. It reaches
Q. But he was selling the goods that the population wanted
Yavlinsky: That is also true. I am explaining who the
main winner is, I am not claiming that they did this without
the population's participation. The population was also
involved. As I have already told you, this is a Soviet
country. They were offered goods of such quality. By the
way, if, for example, Bush Junior had been promoted with
the same persistence, he would have clearly been elected
to the Duma as well. Or they would have said that Clinton
had to be in the Duma, because his term was about to expire
and the poor guy had nowhere to go. He would have gone
somewhere like Kabardino-Balkaria, like Berezovsky to
Karachayevo-Cherkessia, and would have been elected there.
Another choice could have been Aguino-Buryat District.
Do you think people that would not have voted for him?
Yes, they would.
Q. According to opinion polls, the people were ready
to take such steps.
Yavlinsky: What steps? Like Kobzon (Ed. popular singer),
who got 90%?
Q. To Putin.
Yavlinsky: Certainly! All the recent years led Russia
in that direction. Five years ago everyone was afraid
that Russia was veering towards national-populism. Now
this time has come. The time of national-populism. This
is really true.
Q. What will change in Russia's economy in the next millennium?
Yavlinsky: I don't have grounds to assume that there
will be any significant changes. I can only confirm the
current forecasts - the potential provided by the additional
opportunity of devaluation will be completely exhausted
by the middle of next year. And then Russia will face
significant economic difficulties. In addition, as the
debt issue has still not been solved, moreover in a state
of war, we may face high inflation. And this will be a
Q. What does the war mean for the budget?
Yavlinsky: The budget recorded an operating surplus.
Consequently there is money for the war. But the budget
for 2000 should be different. Large-scale military actions
will require considerable additional expenditure: it remains
unclear how they will be covered. By the way, it is also
unclear today whether the military are being paid their
wages. We will face a problem, if they are not being paid.
Q. How have the additional proceeds from the rise in
oil prices on international markets been used?
Yavlinsky: I don't have precise information. It was a
question that I asked Vladimir Putin. We discussed the
rise in customs duties. He said that part of the duties
had already been raised, which they wanted to use. However,
I don't know how long the OPEC countries will tolerate
this price rise. I told him in October that we had to
urgently make use of these funds, as I think that after
January the OPEC countries will everything within their
to make sure that they never see such prices again, as
they are being ruined by them.
Q. The country lives in a strange unique situation. There
is a huge structure controlled by nobody apart from the
President. This is the Administration Department. Have
you ever proposed changing the law? Many people in the
West naively believe that you have a democracy and division
of power here. But the Administration Department is the
largest enterprise in Russia. Nobody raises any issues
about its control.
Yavlinsky: Whose Administration Department is this?
Q. The President's.
Yavlinsky: There you are. He controls it.
Q. But could Yabloko propose a legislative initiative
Yavlinsky: Yabloko did the following: we drafted a new
budget in a completely different manner (Ed. Yabloko's
proposals for the draft budget 2000, also known as the
alternative budget). All the present budgets have an article
"expenditure on state management". Yabloko put
this in several definite articles. We submitted an appendix
that included 1.400 articles. 1.400 articles! We have
denoted everything there: expenditure on paper and pencils
for the President of the RF, expenditure on toiletry for
the President of the RF, expenditure on business trips
for the deputy chairmen of the Duma, expenditure on soap,
toilet paper, pencils and pens. That is how we approached
this issue. In addition it should be decided where the
profits from such a large enterprise go, etc. When I visited
one city, people asked me why Yeltsin had so many houses,
residences and cars? I answered, "Because Yeltsin
fought against privileges. And won." (Laughter).
People liked it: he fought, won and all this now belongs
Q. You don't have 35 people to create a faction.
Yavlinsky: We don't think that this is important. Parties
elected by the people can even have 10 seats. When independent
deputies want to unite, they need 35 people to obtain
the status of a group. But this norm does not apply to
individuals elected under federal lists. If someone had
5%, he would have a faction of 12 people. My electorate
brought me here, this is my source of power.
Q. Which Duma committees will your faction head?
Yavlinsky: It is difficult for such a "big"
faction as we are today to speak about committees. We
would like to have our Speaker. If we aren't given the
post of Speaker, we would like to have the post of a Deputy
Speaker. We would like to have one committee and other
posts as deputy chairmen of the key committees. We shall
certainly have a deputy head of the budget committee.
Q. Who might this be?
Yavlinsky: Most likely, Igor Artemyev. We will definitely
have a deputy head of the Committee for Legislation, most
likely, Elena Mizulina. We will definitely have a deputy
head for the Defence Committee, Alexei Arbatov. We will
definitely have a deputy head of the Committee for Local
Government Issues, Sergei Mitrokhin. This is for sure.
Q. Have you already reached an agreement on Stepashin
Yavlinsky: He was proposed by Sergei Kiryenko. Shoigu
also proposed him, by the way. He said that it should
be decided according to the UN principle: Chairman of
the Duma representing a small faction. Let it be. We have
been repeating this for a long time, that this would be
Q. Could you provide better arguments against the war
in Chechnya, so that your position looked more consistent
for the population? There is evidence that does not appear
in the Russian mass media.
Yavlinsky: You know, it is even harder for deputies to
get there than reporters. Deputies can go only as far
as the location of the federal forces. I am going to speak
about this on the "Itogi" programme on Sunday
Q. They are hunting for Maria Eismont (Ed. reporter from
the Reiter agency in Chechnya). She is now in Nazran.
Yavlinsky: "Svoboda" ("Freedom")
also has Babitski in Chechnya. It is possible to speak
with someone there. I cannot produce evidence, as I am
not an investigator or public prosecutor. I must do my
business. Russia has its specifics - a politician should
engage only in politics. As soon as he begins performing
other functions - going here and there with a suitcase
full of compromising material or becoming a seeker after
the truth - everything immediately becomes confused. Unfortunately,
I don't have special mechanisms here. And then you should
understand that when a politician produces such proof...
this means that they are produced by a politician... They
are immediately turned into an accusation, that this had
been done for the sake of sheer populism. "Memorial"
(Ed. a well-known society for human rights protection)
should engage in this. A politician should take objective
evidence and build his policy on this basis. If I could
procure this evidence, I would get it, simply because
it must be obtained. But I don't have additional possibilities
here. And I can't believe in the data from the Chechens.
But I can't believe our military either.
Q. If we turn to political regulation of the conflict:
Russia does not want to see there political intermediaries
such as the OSCE (Organisation of Security and Cooperation
Yavlinsky: But I do. And I don't object here. I think
that it would be better for Russia, if international intermediaries
took part. Russia has a lot to talk with them about here.
There is a problem with terrorists, a serious problem.
It hasn't suddenly materialised: there are terrorists
in Chechnya. There are large groups of terrorists in Kirgizia
and Tadjikistan as well and not only in Chechnya. This
is a serious matter and poses a serious threat. If this
is an anti-terrorist operation ,this is a serious and
important task - to bring the terrorists to court or eliminate
them. Their attack on Daghestan was not incidental: they
have a plan, including a desire to reach the Caspian Sea
and create a vakhabits' state there.