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Sergei Mitrokhin: YABLOKOs union with the greens is strategic

A short version of Sergei Mitrokhin's speech at the 3rd Conference of the Green Russia faction

November 23, 2010

I believe that the union we concluded long ago between YABLOKO and Green Russia is very important. I was an active advocate of such a union. Together we have created virtually the only political organisation in the country which has been engaged in comprehensive solution of environmental problems. No one in this country, except us, has ever raised the issues of environmental policy as such, and this is a tragedy of our country. And the worst here is that the government does not deal with these problems either. The system of environmental protection has been destroyed in several months after Putin came to power, and you were the political force which strongly opposed this. The first steps we have done separately, but then we joined our efforts protesting against the policy which was carried out then, or rather, a rejection of any policy in this field. We very strongly protested against [governments] amendments to the forestry laws.

And I should note here that the YABLOKO party participated in the development of the previous forestry legislation. A member of our party headed the State Duma Committee on Natural Resources then. Of course, that legislation was certainly not perfect, and many of its provisions could have been criticized, but overall we were not ashamed of that work. However, there were attempts to amend this legislation, and there was a wave of amendments that worsened these laws. By the way, we managed to block one of such amendments then. In 2003 the government by the end of the State Duma term asked to allow transfer of forest lands under economic use. We managed to derail the amendment then, because there was freedom of speech in that period. We announced during live broadcasting of the Freedom of Speech television programme by Savvik Shuster that we would disclose all the names and factions of the State Duma voting for such an amendment And the amendment failed.

And after that we were ousted out of the State Duma for such actions, as we carried out plenty of such actions there. We gave a very tough assessment to the new Forestry Code. We warned about the consequences of its adoption and we turned out to be right. The Code virtually led to a disaster: it destroyed by the systems of forests protection and fire prevention. The function of protection was transferred to the economic entities renting forest lands, that is, the sheep were transferred under protection of the wolves. [The Code led to such a situation when] foresters, who were involved in fire prevention, simply disappeared. However endless reporting to a federal structure remained. All this is described in detail in the report of a public commission, which analysed in detail the causes of forest fires [that were especially severe this summer]. The initiative to establish such a commission came from YABLOKO, we were the only political organisation in the country (speaking in a broad sense, including governments agencies as well), which analysed the causes of these fires, and made this in a systematic and comprehensive way combining the efforts of many environmental organisations. The State Duma made a sluggish statement where they did not even name any persons or agencies liable [for the situation]...

And it is clear why, as all of them [in the Duma] were members of the ruling United Russia party, whose members ran along the rows in the Duma pressing the buttons "for" the new Forest Code. Otherwise they would have to say "sorry, we can not make laws, and, in general, we're just puppets." Despite all their patriotic rhetoric and their endless glorification of the vertical of the power, they have been ruining this vertical. I am grateful to the authors of the report for quoting the key figures and what they were saying adopting the Forestry Code. Both Vladimir Putin and then Economic Minister German Gref, and head of the Forestry Service, were saying, "We will now have financial flows in our forestry, and investments will come to our forests!" And with such an ideology they destroyed a serious state structure that had existed in Russia for three hundred years.

The role of YABLOKO in the Russian politics is also painted in green. Of course, we have both the democratic and the social role But other [parties and organisations] have such roles too but for the environmental protection role. I'm glad that we are engaged in this together with the Green Russia. And we are doing this not only on the federal level. Previously, YABLOKOs activities in their environmental protection activities concentrated mainly in Moscow. Now, thanks to the Green Russia faction, we have a network of such regions already. I was glad to come and help to Andrei Rudomakha in Tuapse and Sochi (environmental issues are acute there due to the Olympic construction) and Galina Boldyreva in Volgograd (we are struggling against air pollution and try to solve the waste disposal problem there). I think this activity is extremely important and useful for the people and the party: we show to the people that we care about such issues, we are engaged in this and can offer solutions for such problems and that we can work in the state power bodies over these problems. And strictly speaking we are fighting for this. Already now, we can propose candidates who could lead environmental agencies in many regions so that to restore the system of environmental protection in our country. I would like to thank you for your work and encourage you to work even more actively in the regions under YABLOKOs flags. I am ready to render you any personal assistance, as well as offer help form the party apparat, and personally come to such actions.

Now about the political situation in the country. At present we are the only democratic party in Russia.

We are an opposition party, because we are against the system they began building in 1990s and logically finalised in 2000s. We call this an oligarchic system. This system represents a merger of the business and the government, and the goal of its functioning is to enrich those who are in large-scale businesses and in power. While the Communist Party of the Soviet Union strived to bring happiness to all, the present ruling United Russia party wants to derive profit from all.

If we attempt to analyse any of Russias problems or troubles, we shall find out that they are rooted in the pursuit of wealth. The State Duma adopts laws allowing for large-scale businessmen together with top state officials to simply make money. This is the goal of their budget policies, or rather the policies of their family budgets. In the Russian language we have a word which is the source of probably half of Russian corruption - this word is "may". For example, the law stipulates that the regional legislative authority may examine the use of funds, etc. It seems normal - to check how officials spend budget money. But the word "may" destroys the possibility of such an audit, leaving them freedom to conduct or not to conduct it (may or may not). And this refers to any situation. The number of such norms has considerably grown for the past ten years, as have mastered the art of wording... Previously people did not pay much attention to the laws. For example, they conducted privatisation of 1990s without any laws, as they had not yet mastered the art of making such specific legislation. Now they have learned this art in full. And at present everything is done in accordance with the law.

What has been happening to land? In fact, it goes into the hands of the oligarchs in different ways and under different titles and by means of different methods. The land they are interested in is normally public land, such as parks, historical city center, lands by the highways, etc What, for example, is the main problem behind the fight for Khimki forest? This is the problem of seizing the land.

By the way, YABLOKO has been supporting the defenders of Khimki Forest from the very beginning. We have all the information why has it all begun and how it has happened. The Leningrad highway (Ed. Now St.Petersburg Moscow highway) passes across the Khimki district. In 1985, the plans of that time envisaged a broad lane for the highway between Moscow and Leningrad. Later the land reserved for broadening of the highway was unlawfully given under construction of large malls. Now they say to the defenders of Khimki Forest, "Well, look what traffic jams we are having on the highway! Are you against the development of roads? We have a transport collapse here and you are making it even worse.

The land by this highway is the main reason why they have been felling the forest. The reason number two is that the lands by the Moscow St.Petersburg highway can be transferred under construction of more large molls. And all the fuss there is around the land, and not because of this highway will be a paid highway. The latter will pay back God knows when And a disproportionately huge area of Khimki forest they are cutting now is simply a way to capture the land. And this has been always done under noble pretexts. Take for example, the reopening of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill. Why did they reopen it? Because [oligarch] Oleg Deripaska, while he was still the owner of the mill, asked Vladimir Putin not to deprive him of this income.

...We have a system that allows for about 10% of the population to live in prosperity, for about 30% to live in more or less tolerable conditions, while the remaining 60% of the citizens are virtually surviving. And this system can not function in a different way, as it has been designed in such a way. People who created and have been controlling this system think that this system will suffice for their term of office. And maybe something will even go to their successors. So they do not need to develop and diversify the economy and do not have to get off the oil and gas needle. They want to maintain their dominance forever. That is why they changed the Constitution, which now allows for an increase of the real term of office for the President of up to 20 years. That is why we have high technologies only as PR slogans or for replenishment of family budgets.

The most profitable business in Russia after the sales of oil and gas is exploration of budget funds under some plausible excuses, and their fantasy is never exhausted when they are inventing new excuses. The budget has already allocated 50 billion roubles under nano-technologies. And now they come up with [the Russian Silicon Valley of] Skolkovo project... In any case this situation never changes. We are living under an oligarchic system, and we have been observing a dominating trend towards its stabilisation. And it's a terrible thing for the nature and the environment.

... Now about interaction with different political forces. There are some forces that are very radical and critical today. And we are constantly asked why we do not make some sort of association with them, why we do not participate in their actions, why we are not joining the ranks with the Solidarity, RNDS and others. One of the reasons is that the leaders of these movements are the same people who have been building this oligarchic system. They were among the top government officials, headed the State Duma, helped Putin to build this system under the slogan "Putin for the Presidency!", "Kiriyenko to the State Duma," and so on. These are the people who have made the country such as it is now. Some nasty stories happened to some of them - they were thrown out of power for various reasons, they got angry, and are now shouting "Away with Putin!"

Some time ago, they came to us and said publicly that they wanted to unite with us, enter into coalitions, alliances, and create a united party, and so on. We were saying to them, "We are ready to unite with you. But you should at least admit that your policy was wrong, it was a mistake, as well as the fact that at you were calling yourselves democrats but virtually did a lot for turning Russia into oligarchy, rather than democracy. They simply glued democracy, like the fig-leaf, to this oligarchy. Because the oligarchy in the modern world has no legitimacy of its own.
In ancient Greece oligarchic regimes were recognised together with a democratic ruling, a tyranny and so on. In the modern world only democracy is of value, and you'll get recognition only if you are a democrat. That is why those who want to install a total power of money will always dress up in disguise as democrats. And now they under democratic slogans would like to return to the old times and represent the forces of oligarchic revenge. That's why we have different ways with them. This is the main reason. It is hard to explain on television, it is hard to explain to people who are not engaged in these problems or do not study them.

Nevertheless, we are not aiming at vengeance. If a person acknowledges his or her mistakes, then, of course, we are ready to work with him or her. We have even a special paper written for them - but they refuse to sign it (Ed. To acknowledge that their policies were wrong).


See also:

Protection of Environment

Nuclear Safety

November 23, 2010

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