"The Russian army is reviving in Chechnya, faith in the
army is growing, and a politician who does not think so
cannot be regarded as a Russian politician. In this case,
there is only one definition - a traitor. And [Grigory]
Yavlinsky's attempts to justify himself, to say that he
was misinterpreted, do not change matters."
The above quote was not from the LDPR's Vladimir Zhirinovsky
and not from Russian National Unity leader Alexander Barkashov.
No, it was from Russia's best-known "liberal": Anatoly
Yavlinsky's criticism of the war in Chechnya could not
have been more careful or loyal. He has expressed "complete
support" for the government's war effort, and for the
stated aims of stamping out terrorism, and has applauded
Russian military successes.
Within that context, he framed his call last week for
negotiations with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Yavlinsky
argued that the military has restored Russian influence
in the Caucasus, and can in confidence hand the process
to political negotiators.
Yavlinsky also called for an immediate 30-day bombing
moratorium, to move ordinary people out of the war zone.
This is Yavlinsky's recognition - somewhat limp and belated
compared to that of, say, Yelena Bonner - that civilians
have been getting killed or uprooted at a rate that has
alarmed governments around the world.
Yavlinsky also puts forward the chilling suggestion that
after those 30 days, if Maskhadov has not met Yabloko's
harsh negotiating conditions, the military can do as it
pleases in Chechnya - apparently on the understanding
that anyone left is by definition a combatant, as all
"real" civilians will have fled during the cease fire.
This is the truly ugly aspect of Yavlinsky's plan. Many
of those in Chechnya are trapped there by circumstance
- they are elderly, or ill, or mentally disabled, or simply
stuck in poverty. If Yavlinsky's argument provides a carte
blanche for razing the republic, their fate will be on
Yet even so, is Yavlinsky a traitor? Yavlinsky agrees
with the war aims 100 percent, he praises the successes
- and then he argues now is the time for new tactics -
and for this, according to Chubais, we can no longer even
consider Yavlinsky "a Russian politician," because he
"does not think ... the Russian army is reviving in Chechnya."
Chubais is more than welcome to scorn Yavlinsky's peace
plan. But instead of challenging Yavlinsky's proposal,
he is challenging his right to make a proposal at all.
Chubais may call himself a liberal - but in labeling Yavlinsky
an enemy of the people he is behaving more like a Stalinist.