Sergei Ivanenko is coordinator of the
Yabloko faction in the State Duma and right-hand-man to
the party's leader, Grigory Yavlinsky.
Ivanenko was a member of the Russian
delegation at the recent Council of Europe session that
voted to suspend Russiaís membership, but unlike the majority
of the delegation, he did not protest the councilís decision.
A subsequent resolution passed by the State Duma lower
house of parliament confirmed the delegation's majority
Sergei Ivanenko told The Russia Journal
about the Yabloko factionís position on this issue, the
factionís plans and his personal views on Russian politics.
RJ: As one of the leaders of the Russian
delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly,
how do you view the Dumaís statement?
SI: The statement essentially comes down
to two main points. First, we [the Duma] fully approve
the activity of our delegation in Strasbourg; second,
we are giving the Parliamentary Assembly an ultimatum
in threatening not to participate further in its work
if it doesnít review its decision. As for the details,
the text has changed substantially since Monday [April
10] when I saw the first draft. It has become less aggressive
and more diplomatic, more balanced. But the essence remains
the same. That is why Yabloko is the only faction that
voted against it. To approve it would have meant condemning
those who "split" from the others Ė Sergei Kovalyov, the
Yabloko deputies, myself and [Alexander] Shishlov. For
me, itís surprising then to see SPS [Union of Right Forces]
essentially support the resolution, thus going against
its own members. Only four SPS members voted against the
RJ: Who is the author of the resolution?
SI: This kind of resolution is drawn
up by a committee, so the author in this case was [Chairman
of the International Affairs Committee Dmitry] Rogozin.
Then, it underwent substantial change. Yabloko took the
hardest line, but other factions were not all that supportive,
RJ: So itís not just European parliamentarians
who can be accused of being too emotional?
SI: Weíre open about it; weíre used to
telling the truth. Others think it, but try to save face,
while our argument goes, "If we sent this delegation,
we have to approve their work, otherwise weíre just whipping
ourselves." Thereís a logic there, but we shouldnít have
sent such a delegation in the first place. We were opposed
to appointing [Dmitry] Rogozin both as International Affairs
Committee chairman and as head of the delegation. I was
also nominated, Otechestvo proposed me, SPS supported
me, but the KPRF [Communist Party], Yedinstvo [Unity]
and [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky got together and blocked me.
They are responsible for what happened in Strasbourg.
Now, of course, they donít want to admit it, though I
think they realize their friends did a lot of stupid things
RJ: You were there. Why do you think
events took such a turn there?
SI: The Parliamentary Assembly is really
no different from the Duma. Work goes on there in the
corridors, in conversations, committee meetings and at
dinners. From the beginning, it seemed to me that most
of our delegation was in an aggressive and blackmailing
mood. I donít know exactly what the main mistake was,
which speech was the turning point; but the European parliamentarians
went from being ready to examine all our proposals to
finding themselves in a situation where they were being
bullied and blackmailed.
RJ: What about Vladimir Putin? Is
he still an incomprehensible figure?
SI: To me, Putin also represents the
oligarchic-nomeklatura form of capitalism. In that sense,
his actions and potential policies are comprehensible.
But I think Putin has a range of possibilities; heís a
pragmatic man and that kind of person can move within
a very broad spectrum. A lot depends not so much on the
individual in power, but on the real forces in society
that can influence power. The stronger the coalition,
the greater the opportunities for influencing Putin. Iím
almost certain that Putin could modify his policies to
take into consideration the influence of public forces.
Putin already takes into account Yablokoís influence,
even though we only have 17 deputies in the Duma.
RJ: Who has real influence on Putin
at the moment?
SI: No one party. Putinís entourage is
like a court; Putin is the same as Yeltsin, only younger.
Itís still a Byzantine court Ė in favor today, in disgrace
tomorrow. But Iím not a specialist in all that and canít
tell you who has the right to just open the door without
RJ: If you have a court, you need
a tsar. Yeltsin was a tsar, but Putin?
SI: Putin has the same powers as Yeltsin.
Thereís the same struggle to gain access to him, the right
to influence him. The only difference is that Yeltsin
was an ill but imposing tsar, while Putin is still a young
RJ: This court was formed under Yeltsin.
Putin has come into an already existing system. Can he
and, if so, will he change it?
SI: I donít think that Putin can or even
will want to change a Byzantine system that appoints say,
two enemies so they can fight with each other, or divides
officials into favorites and those in disgrace. As for
who will have influence, look at Alexander Korzhakov.
He was Yeltsinís personal bodyguard, but he had enormous
power. Who will be next Ė maybe Putinís cook?
RJ: What immediate plans does Yabloko
SI: We still need to seriously analyze
the election results, carry out reforms in our party,
increase our supporters and get results in local and regional
elections. We have to increase our influence on the government,
public opinion and the media.
RJ: Many say the problem is that the
only name in Yabloko is Yavlinsky.
SI: I donít agree. Look at the KPRF.
Their only well-known figure is [Gennady] Zyuganov. But
you have to have a leader. You canít have 5,000 party
members on TV every day. We do want to attract new supporters;
young people, talented, hard-working people. Weíre talking
about a coalition to combine our potential with that of
other parties, and with governors, for example.
RJ: Election results showed that you
are losing supporters.
SI: We havenít lost supporters, but I
think the problem is weíre not gaining them. We need good
organizers to help us gain support.
RJ: How real is the danger of a police
state in Russia?
SI: Itís a real danger. We wonít go back
to communism, but we could turn to a totalitarian system.
The poorer the country, the more aggressive the people,
the more real that danger becomes. The economy is the
RJ: Will the influence of the military
in Russian life grow under Putin, who clearly has a better
relationship with them than Yeltsin did?
SI: Half the Duma has been in uniform;
it makes no difference. We have a regime of nomenklatura
capitalism Ė bureaucrats, secret services and oligarchs.
The military is maybe an issue in Argentina or Peru, where
it has huge privileges, authority and power. But the military
has never had such a unique role in Russia. Secret services
RJ: Is it significant that Putin comes
from the secret services?
SI: I think so; it shows a preoccupying
trend. One illustration is our procedural code that dates
from 1964. Under this code, you can hold someone in prison
while awaiting trial for two years; he gets tuberculosis,
gets let out, no trial happens and no one bears any responsibility.
Many cases never make it to court. We're working at the
moment on a new code. Of course, miracles wonít happen.
For all to be normal in Russia, we would need normal laws,
civil control over the secret services, uncorrupt ministers
and an independent press. Weíre going to fight to defend
NTV, for example. We canít let the state monopolize something
as important as television.
RJ: Does the state want to do this?
SI: The authorities want monopoly in general,
absolute power, and our job is to make sure this doesnít
happen. Whether we will have the strength for that is
another question. The outcome depends on who will help
us Ė whether other parties and the media will help us.