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Interview of Grigory Yavlinsky on the "Hero of the Day" programme


NTV channel, Interviewer: Svetlana Sorokina
February 09, 2000

Svetlana Sorokina: Hello. You are watching the "Hero of the Day" programme. Today the lexicon of Russian politics obtained a new word: "koziyed". This is the term used by the leader of the Yabloko faction, Grigory Yavlinsky, to describe the Duma majority, consisting of CO-mmunists, the ZI-rynovsky faction and "Yed-instvo" (the Unity). Today the author of this neologism is the guest in our studio. Hello, Grigory Alexeevich.

Grigory Yavlinsky: Hello.

Sorokina: You also said that the right-wing minority would be able to manage the "koziyed". Could you share with us your views on how this will be achieved?

Yavlinsky: The time will come when laws will have to be adopted. For a month the Duma majority has been engaged in organisational matters. But at some stage they will have to adopt laws. Then we will get right to the point. This will be the beginning of serious work. Now we have returned to do this work. During this time we have prepared a significant package of draft laws and think that this essential work with our participation will be effective.

Sorokina: Perhaps the majority is already accustomed to rejecting you and your proposals will not elicit any response, solely because you are the ones making the proposals.

Yavlinsky: Let them propose draft laws as well. We donít care who proposes them: we believe that it is important to adopt the laws. For example, we would like to adopt a law introducing a moratorium on any tax hikes. We introduced this law, which was drafted by Yabloko, together with a number of other laws. All these laws are jointly supported by the three factions. (Ed. Yabloko, the Union of Right-Wing Forces [SPS] and Fatherland - All Russia [OVR].) I would like to see how this or that faction or whoever would disapprove of a law that prohibits any tax hikes over the next two years. This virtually represents a start to tax reform. Or, for example, we are going to submit a law stipulating no deductions from the wage fund. The higher the wage fund and the average wage - provided taxes are low - the less the necessity to make deductions from these funds. Consequently, employers will not have to pay wages in envelopes. (Ed. the second, concealed portion of wages, which is not being taxed). They will be able to legally pay this sum, while paying a 10% profits tax. We think that a number of similar proposals would help extricate the economy from the current absurd situation.

Sorokina: But you know all too well that if these draft laws are not listed as priority drafts, they will be debated for the next four years and then be inherited by the next Duma. Surely you hope that they will be considered soon?

Yavlinsky: We have very good experience. We have never constituted the majority and have never been a large faction. But, nevertheless, during the time of our work in the Duma - and we have existed since the formation of the Duma - we have managed to pass all the laws that we considered necessary. Almost all the laws. This includes a set of laws on self-government; all legislation related to the planning of the budget process; everything related to foreign affairs that we considered a priority task for that period; a number of social laws related to an increase in the minimum wage and tariffing system for the wages of teachers and doctors. Despite immense resistance from the government we managed to adopt these laws, which are now in force.

Sorokina: So can we say that you really are one of the oldest political parties in contemporary Russia?

Yavlinsky: Yes, you can. Apart from the communists, of course.

Sorokina: And Zhirinovsky...

Yavlinsky: Well, Zhirinovsky is a special case.

Sorokina: He is also a political old-timer. Grigory Alexeevich, today you returned to the plenary meeting of the Duma together with your rebellious colleagues from the OVR and the SPS. You were present, participated and voted... Is the conflict over? What result did you obtain from such opposition?

Yavlinsky: We achieved serious results. I think that our union constitutes the first real result. The very fact that three factions, which continue to hold diametrically opposing views in many areas, managed to unite and find a common platform and clearly state their position at a time when human dignity and the common norms of democracy were defiled. Nobody in this process tried to exploit the other parties: we have acted in this way from the beginning till the end. This is a great achievement. We represent together here 18 million voters. Not that many parties have so many voters - 18 million! This means 120 deputies. This is a serious force. And now it will be much easier for the three factions to pass laws and state our values. This is the first thing.

Sorokina: Why do we always unite only in times of hardship, trouble and emergencies? Why do we never unite in calmer situations?

Yavlinsky: There is nothing bad about this. I think that all normal people are mostly like this. In our country, for example, we have several papers and several TV companies. You don't try to merge them into a single one, do you?

Sorokina: That would be ridiculous, as we provide different viewpoints.

Yavlinsky: The same holds true for politics. People are different and hold different views. But it is very important that we reach understanding on the principal issues. And different factions, such as OVR and SPS, are absolutely different. But there are moments when we reach understanding on key issues.

Sorokina: Sorry, I interrupted you, when you wanted to speak about the second consequence.

Yavlinsky: The second consequence is that the country noticed that the real Bolsheviks (Ed. allusion to historic Bolsheviks and the fact that "Bolsheviks" in Russian means a majority) appeared in the Duma, when the Kremlin merged with Zhirynovsky and the communists. The people you spoke about at the beginning of your programme. This is very important, as this is the fact of Russia's politics. These are the aspirations of the present executive authorities: this indicates where they are going. I think that these two circumstances are very important.

Sorokina: How long will the union of the three factions last? Or is this a provisional union?

Yavlinsky: Let us not guess here. Such unions are very complicated in Russia. They are being pulled apart: they are subject to a special impact. I remember very well the time when we tried to form a union with Svyatoslav Fyodorov and Alexander Lebed in the 1996 presidential election campaign. I know how they switched off the electricity in Svyatoslav Fyodorov's clinic. I know what they did with Lebed, and that time he yielded. Therefore I would not like to assess today the potential for the union of three factions.

Sorokina: Virtually all the committees in the Duma now have a leader. Now they discuss only the positions of deputy speaker and deputy heads of committees. Could you tell us what you and your colleagues have decided about these issues?

Yavlinsky: We will discuss this issue tomorrow.

Sorokina: Isn't everything clear yet?

Yavlinsky: No, we have not reached a final decision yet. But I hope that we will finally resolve these issues on Friday.

Sorokina: You mean that there may be a deputy speaker from Yabloko...

Yavlinsky: These questions will be discussed.

Sorokina: But you don't refuse posts any more?

Yavlinsky: I would put it like this: we can agree only if we all agree together. It is very important that we support each other in this situation and offer a hand. That is how we will act with SPS and OVR to adopt co-ordinated decisions. We will discuss these issues tomorrow

Sorokina: Does that meant that you will agree, if your colleagues from OVR and SPS decide that someone from Yabloko should take the post of a deputy speaker?

Yavlinsky: This will be a mutual decision, both by Yabloko and the other two factions.

Sorokina: This is clear. How can you comment on the fact that the Duma refused today to approve Zadornov even as deputy chairman of the budget committee?

Yavlinsky: There is nothing surprising about that.

Sorokina: Nothing surprising, but...

Yavlinsky: We know their escapades far too well.

Sorokina: But Mikhail Zadornov is a professional...

Yavlinsky: They are not interested in this issue. Nobody is interested in professionalism in the Duma. This was a purely political action supported by "Unity", or the Kremlin in other words, which was devised by Zhirynovsky. Shandibin was the speaker on this issue. This is such a nice company. And it reflects the political views of the present leadership. This constitutes s a graphic example. But I think that Mikhail Zadornov can work effectively work as deputy chairman of the sub-committee for the Central Bank. He is a capable, highly-organised, precise and honest man. That is why I am sure of him.

Sorokina: And what about the parliamentary Commission for Corruption that may be headed by Stepashin?

Yavlinsky: Yes, if we adopt such a decision tomorrow at our consultations, then there will be such a commission and it will be headed by Sergei Stepashin, I hope.

Sorokina: You mean that you hope that everyone will support you here? The Duma majority?

Yavlinsky: This issue remained unresolved due to a common position. We shall discuss this issue tomorrow. I think that we will find a solution here.

Sorokina: How do you and your allies perceive the tasks and competence of this commission? This is a hard, long, even everlasting matter - fight with corruption and what is more in the upper echelons of power.

Yavlinsky: The Duma has a definite function here. It is constrained by the Dumaís inability to hold investigations. But corruption has penetrated our state to such an extent that even the existence of this commission headed by such a highly-qualified individual as Stepashin will be very useful. I think that we shall provide content for the work of this commission. Now we introduce a number of laws that will be drafted by this commission. They are laws on the elimination of the President's reserve budget funds, or on the governors' right to use 10% for their needs (all this was stipulated earlier), or on conducting all market transactions only in an open regime, or, for example, that all the state loans must be open and competitive, in other words a tender must be held here. This is the field of work for the commission. Or, for example, that introduction of amendments, stipulating that all state officials must declare their incomes at the same level as presidential candidates, i.e., including the incomes of their wives, children and relatives. We consider these measures to be very important.

Sorokina: In your opinion, which draft laws will be priority drafts for the State Duma? Your proposals are clear and obvious.

Yavlinsky: We have three proposals. All of them refer to citizens' rights. In particular, we are submitting a draft law on the citizens' right to information. This is a very important issue. We have already discussed the drafts related to the economy with you - taxes, the wage fund, the most painful issues. I have already told you about anti-corruption measures. These are priority issues to us.

Sorokina: So you propose all these issues?

Yavlinsky: Yes.

Sorokina: In your opinion, where should the Duma begin its work?

Yavlinsky: Just a moment and I will tell you. But in addition - and this is very important - all three factions are now submitting their proposals. They even spoke at a special press-conference on this issue in the same directions, but in a broader scale and in more detail. For example, SPS submitted a Land Code. Tthey also introduced a number of draft laws on a deputyís status. The OVR faction prepares their own laws. This is the set of laws that I told you about. Everything should become clear in the Duma, probably, on Friday, when it will begin discussing priority draft laws. But judging by discussions at a joint meeting of the Federation Council and the State Duma... If the Duma listen to what was developed there and take a list of 10 laws, make them priority laws, limit the term of their adoption and only then move on, this would be the correct course of action. We will advocate this point of view on Friday.

Sorokina: Do you think that this will be adopted?

Yavlinsky: As you know, 75% of the deputies in the Duma are new. And they all behave in a very strange way: they are all under the influence of this unnatural union called the "Bolsheviks".

Sorokina: Do you mean this can be forecast?

Yavlinsky: This may be forecast to a comparative extent, as there are grounds for believing that first of all the Duma will submit for adoption laws that would be very easy to adopt, in a bid to demonstrate the Duma's ability to work. For it has not adopted anything for a month already.

Sorokina: For example?

Yavlinsky: I think that first of all these will be laws related to the ability to clarify the Dumaís regulations. There are also laws related to amendments that need to be made to the First Part of the Tax Code. Something like that. I think that the Duma will not dare raise questions related to amendments to the Constitution, while we believe that it is necessary to focus attention on this area. Or, for example, to adopt a law on guarantees to the ex-President.

Sorokina: Vladimir Putin said today that perhaps the issue of private land ownership should be submitted to a referendum. What do you think?

Yavlinsky: This is stipulated by the Constitution. Why should this issue be subjected to a referendum? This issue is resolved by the Constitution. The issue of private land ownership concerns how to do this, instead of whether this should be done at all. An issue is subjected to a referendum when it is necessary to decide whether something should be done or not. In this case simply a decision simply needs to be taken. We have our own position, which is shared by a large number of regions. An agrarian programme has been developed and contains a resolution of this issue.

Sorokina: What actions should in your opinion be taken with regards an inquiry into the fate of the journalist Babitsky?

Yavlinsky: Incidentally the Duma failed to establish an inquiry today. We have been preparing a statement on this inquiry since last night.

Sorokina: What could be done now?

Yavlinsky: Let us be serious - only a head of the Interior or the Defence Ministry or the Federal Security Service can answer this question on the instructions of the President. This whole bloody farce that we observe today is absolutely disgusting. All developments - these videos, the deception of public opinion... There is a common human law not to surrender your people. Here we are speaking about a citizen of the Russian Federation. Neither the President, nor anybody else can act like this - to surrender their citizens to bandits condemned to liquidation. This is an unspeakable thing, I think that it is unprecedented. Only a very weak feeling of citizenship, state and country can tolerate such events.

Sorokina: What can you do now, when Duma has not backed your calls for an inquiry?

Yavlinsky: We will submit our request again, also during the government's "answers to the questions". We will try to obtain an answer from the officials. The matter stands as follow: today he was exchanged, tomorrow somebody else will be exchanged.

Sorokina: Yes. One final question: when do you think that they will finish collecting signatures to support you as presidential candidate?

Yavlinsky: We collected 1,200,000 signatures. We have been trying to stop this collection of signatures for a long time already.

Sorokina: When?

Yavlinsky: I think that we will submit the signatures on Friday. We have already finished collecting signatures.

ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals