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Interview of Grigory Yavlinsky by Sergey Dorenko


ORT channel, Interviewer -Sergey Dorenko
February 24, 2000

Dorenko: One of the aspiring presidential candidates is with us here today. I say "aspiring", to prevent the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) from becoming angry with us (Ed. At the time Yavlinsky had not been approved by the CEC as a candidate). This is not propaganda. It is simply interesting to listen to an acting politician. All these introductions are made specially for the CEC. We aren’t breaching any rules, are we?

Yavlinsky: I hope not.

Dorenko: I would like to hear your comments on this poll. I have always liked mathematics: I learned it at school. I think that your rating in this poll is approximately about 176.6 times lower than that of Putin. Is there any sense in competing? What do you attribute this gap to? You have been in politics for a long time already…

Yavlinsky: Yes, that is true. I don’t know whether I now have 3% or 23%. But I know - if you are asking me about Putin - that he has such a team and such large resources to commit the same mistakes again. So if we meet in this studio again in a month and a half, we will see what has happened to his ratings by then, provided that they are measured correctly. Raising vodka prices, some steps with military training of the reserves, even larger success in some other fields and exchanges of some citizens on the other hand. All this is a huge resource of the Kremlin administration. I think that we have a month and a half to go.

Dorenko: You have been speaking about the advantages of being in opposition. But the authorities also have the resources to punish ministers. As Yeltsin did.

Yavlinsky: I don’t know. However, everything I mentioned resembles opposition to your own country. You have been governing the country for six months already and adopt such decisions… or don’t adopt any decisions, so that for example prices grow or many people die in the anti-terrorist operation and the war goes on. We are seeing many things like this. That is why I am referring in my answer to what may happen in this month and a half and what has already happened.

Dorenko: Are you relying on some negative steps by Putin, i.e. do you think that Putin will get caught in a trap somehow? I mean you are counting on Putin’s problems, rather than on the positive aspects of your programme and your participation. Did I understand you correctly?

Yavlinsky: No. In actual fact the presidential campaign has not started yet, and Putin and I are in principally different positions. He has been acting President for six months already. So this is already the seventh month that he has the opportunity to tell the country what he can do and how and mention what he considers proper to tell. He talks in detail about some things, he promises to do something, he tells us one thing, and then something quite different happens. He can do this. But after collecting signatures, I must wait eight more days before I am registered and only then will I be able to tell the people about my programme.

Dorenko: But today everybody knows that Yavlinsky is a presidential candidate. And this is not your first time, is it?

Yavlinsky: That is true

Dorenko: So people are used to it and you can’t claim that your standing as a presidential candidate begins from X-day. You have never concealed your desire to participate in these elections.

Yavlinsky: This is true.

Dorenko: According to these criteria, you have been assessed as a presidential candidate.

Yavlinsky: This is true. But a certain era - the era of Yeltsin’s rule, is over. The era when I thought that everything you said was essential in politics is over. Now a new era is beginning. I think that the essential thing concerns what will be done. What will Yeltsin’s heritage be? Today the main feeling in the society is concern. Today words must be replaced by deeds. It has become needless to simply throw mud. Definite questions must be answered about what the country should do today.

Dorenko: Don’t you think – and this is my point of view, as I try to watch television as rarely as possible, but sometimes fail, as my family watch it, I come home and the TV set is switched on – that the surroundings are artificially created, that Putin is ascribed some failures, such as the bad weather, flu and the exchange of Babitsky. How is he connected to all this?

Yavlinsky: What are you saying!

Dorenko: It is interesting to learn your position.

Yavlinsky: You probably watch television too rarely.

Dorenko: I try not to watch it at all.

Yavlinsky: Maybe you listened to Vladimir Zhyrinovsky. Watch television, and then you will learn that Putin initially assumed responsibility for the exchange of Babitsky, then his assistant went there, and then he absolves himself of responsibility. That is why people speak about him.

Dorenko: I would like to know, and about this issue in particular, as I have not spoken out on this issue yet and I think that there is much hypocrisy here. As far as I know, several hundred exchanges have been made. Why has this case been made out to be something special?

Yavlinsky: I don’t know Babitsky personally.

Dorenko: Neither do I.

Yavlinsky: But I can tell you that, as everyone knows, bandits often exchange hostages. But when the state exchanges one citizen for another, this is inadmissible, as the leader of the state, as well as the state in general, is responsible for each citizen.

Dorenko: Then can we say that Chechnians are not citizens of Russia? I meant exactly this.

Yavlinsky: Chechnians, who are not terrorists or bandits, even those who are, are citizens of Russia and the law affects them all.

Dorenko: So we should say that these citizens of Russia have been exchanged for Russian military at least several dozen times over the past six years. For even an amnesty was granted and they were released from prisons. I mean that terrorists wrote letters, as in the case of Babitsky, requesting the releasing of such and such a person from prison and in exchange for certain. I know this, as yesterday the Member of the Pardon Commission Evgenia Albatz talked about this on one of the radio programmes, that she personally voted and signed, etc. Are these people worse than Babitsky? Why did no one raised his voice against this? Are they not our citizens? Or maybe the ethnic issue is essential – Babitsky is better, because he is not a Chechnian?

Yavlinsky: I expressed my opinion on this issue. I can only add that the exchange of soldiers fighting for different sides is not the same as an exchange for an unarmed journalist. There is a big difference.

Dorenko: A journalist or a citizen?

Yavlinsky: This is the same thing. He is a journalist and a citizen.

Dorenko: He is an American journalist.

Yavlinsky: I don’t know about that. He is a journalist in Russia.

Dorenko: But he works at "Svoboda" radio station.

Yavlinsky: This is the same as if I asked you, "whom do you work for"?

Dorenko: At once I can see here many problems and our viewer can see many problems here too. Firstly, he is a journalist, and previously the authorities could do whatever they wanted and no one raised his voice against it, which is in my opinion shameful, and this has been going on for six years already… but it is different when a journalist or journalists do this out of solidarity. Secondly, he works for the American mass media and pro-American forces, the Embassy, or Madeleine Albright, that people who sympathise with the US do it. Thirdly, this is its ethnical component. I merely wanted to draw your attention to one of the key comments here today. Yuri Luzhkov said: "I find it hard to understand why we exchange, on the decision of the state or the state authorities which represent the state, one Russian individual for another." Which of these components is more important? If he is a citizen, then you should have said before that citizens are not to be exchanged for other citizens, also when they are Chechnians.

Yavlinsky: I have already told you everything that I intended to say. I shall return to this topic, when, and God save us from this, you are exchanged for someone after March 26 (Ed. the date of presidential elections), when the circumstances are such that Babitsky will have to be returned, when values change, and the state will grab you in the street and start exchanging you for someone else. I am principally against all this, and the fact that this was done to other citizens of Russia does not …

Dorenko: So you simply did not know about all this?

Yavlinsky: I would like to stress once again: irrespective of the citizens of Russia that the state would exchange for other citizens, I realise the price of the letters that these citizens write in different cases (Ed. letters asking to exchange them for other people, as in the Babitsky case). If a person is offered a gun and they say, "You can shoot yourself", do you think that he should do it, if the militia makes such a proposal to him? I would like to say once again: an exchange of Russia’s citizens implies that these people are thrown out of the country and out of life. That is what our state is doing now.

Dorenko: Absolutely correct.

Yavlinsky: I think my view on whether a citizen exists for the state or the state exists for the citizen differs from that of the present authorities. People create a state to be protected and helped by that state. But it transpires that the state can exchange them. By the way, he is also a taxpayer…

Dorenko: But this is another…

Yavlinsky: He maintains the people who decided on his exchange. He maintains the Presidential Aide who grasped him and exchanged him for someone else. Could you tell me who is responsible today for the fate of a citizen of the Russian Federation? Maybe you know who took these decisions on the exchange?

Dorenko: First and foremost the executive authorities.

Yavlinsky: And what does the term executive authorities mean? Tell me the names. I know that a Presidential Aide was there. Now can you tell me who else was there?

Dorenko: I tried to answer this question. OK, let me tell you – you and me. For six years we kept silent when Chechnians were exchanged. This is a normal and usual practice in Russia.

Yavlinsky: I…

Dorenko: You kept silent.

Yavlinsky: I repeat once again – we know for a fact that an individual who signed a written promise that he would not leave Moscow, and who was kept in the Public Prosecutor’s office, and who faced charges, who had to be brought to Moscow, but was suddenly exchanged for nobody knows whom, disappeared. You can find all the other people who were exchanged before and they can come here and tell you about it.

Dorenko: Not at all.

Yavlinsky: Maybe.

Dorenko: We have not followed their fates.

Yavlinsky: I have told you everything. I would not like to think that a time will come, when other journalists will be exchanged.

Dorenko: I hope that we won’t take their side owing to our own racism.

Yavlinsky: I don’t understand what you are talking about.

Dorenko: I mean that no one took the side of the Chechnians. Ok. I don’t know whether we are allowed to speak about your electoral platform, so that the Central Electoral Commission won’t take an offence. They are so easy to hurt…

Yavlinsky: I think that the "Ministry of Democracy" is on the alert.

Dorenko: Ok. I wanted to learn about your position on Chechnya, because we have already touched on trade with hostages. I have always thought this to be shameful. What do think about this now: should the operation should be continued or should we stop, or should we retreat to the Terek river?

Yavlinsky: Do I take it correctly that you think that the trade of the hostage Babitsky is shameful for the Russian state? Do I understand you correctly?

Dorenko: A thousand such hostages as Babitsky.

Yavlinsky: Do I understand you correctly?

Dorenko: Absolutely.

Yavlinsky: Ok. Now, about the plan for Chechnya.

Dorenko: By the way, were you going to become a hostage yourself?

Yavlinsky: I am glad that you asked this question about developments in Chechnya. I think that a critical moment is coming and I would like to tell you that a large group of people have prepared a detailed plan about regulating the situation in Chechnya. And I hope in the nearest time to hand this plan to the acting President and explain specific features to him. I think that this may be even more important now than it has ever been.

Dorenko: Has your party done this?

Yavlinsky: No, this was not done by a party, this was done by a large group of people, I think that they are the best experts in this field.

Dorenko: I would also like to learn about the potential support that you may obtain. Today we have expected the most incredible things from "Fatherland": people have been saying that "Fatherland" will give its support to someone and that everyone will be surprised. I think that the most surprising and natural result would be for them to support Putin. It would be very funny. I thought that they could support you. Your real ratings, after you announce your programme, make a country tour, I think that you are definitely guaranteed the number three spot. Serious analysts have been saying this. And the opposition could make you the blade of the knife or an axe. To axe…

Yavlinsky: You should ask them…

Dorenko: Today Chilingarov has said that your programme does not suit them…

Yavlinsky: Chilingarov? Maybe my programme really does not suit Chilingarov. That would not be a big surprise for me.

Dorenko: To what extent could you rely on these people?

Yavlinsky: At recent elections I represented my party, and together with the party we obtained 6% of the vote. This time I represent not only my party, but also all the non-communist, non-bandit and intelligent part of Russia. And I include Chilingarov here. When we begin the campaign, you’ll get all the answers on your questions.

Dorenko: I have always thought that Zyuganov is the ideological enemy, but you include him in a bandit Russia.

Yavlinsky: I said "non-communist and non-bandit".

Dorenko: Do they all support you? Yavlinsky: Zyuganov? Dorenko: No, the non-communist and non-bandit Russia.

Yavlinsky: I think that I will manage to obtain this support. And in a month when we meet in your studio, you will agree with me on this issue.

Dorenko: In a month? In a month little time will be left before the elections. I think that we must in any case meet before the elections, when you are registered as a presidential candidate and when you offer your plan on Chechnya, as I think the integrity of Russia and the best way of preserving the country are a principal matter.

Yavlinsky: Absolutely right.

Dorenko: No candidate can be elected before he explains his views on this issue.

Yavlinsky: I hope that I to manage to explain this plan to Putin.

Dorenko: So that he becomes President and implements the plan?

Yavlinsky: No, so that we implement the plan in Russia

Dorenko: Would you agree to work as Prime Minister under Putin?

Yavlinsky: Given his present policy – no.

Dorenko: Who would you make Prime Minister, if you win the elections?

Yavlinsky: You always try to make me quarrel with the Central Electoral Commission.

Dorenko: No, I want the elections to go ahead

Yavlinsky: But you have just said that you will have no work then. You are after Zhirinovsky, and Zhirinovsky will conduct the programme instead of you.

Dorenko: If one candidate remains, this will be simply laughable, as you can understand. A Duma, which is fighting for nobody, knows that this would be laughable. All this policy would be laughable, because the scope is incomparable. It is incomparable when it exceeds 17 times (Ed. Putin’s rating). It is comparable, but painfully comparable. That is why I say that this whole scene will die off.

Yavlinsky: I think that you and I will be able to discuss the issue about the rightful owner of the premiership, if you feel too bored here.

Dorenko: Thank you.

ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals