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Interview of Grigory Yavlinsky by Sergey Dorenko


ORT channel, Interviewer -Sergey Dorenko
June 17, 2000

Dorenko: Two students from St Petersburg have been victimised for helping Grigory Yavlinsky in his election campaign. One of them was expelled from the Institute of the Military Industry, while the other was refused entrance to the examination session and was then forced to sign a letter, stating that he had secretly co-operated with the Federal Investigation Bureau (FSB). If he refused, he was told that he would be sent to the war in Chechnya.

Journalist Maxim Goland: "We are used to thinking that you can earn a lot by helping candidates in any election campaign. In principle this is true. But it all depends on the campaign that you support. Several students from Baltic Technical University were unlucky: they were expelled from this well-known university, widely known as the "Institute of the Military Industry Institute", for working for Yabloko and personally for Grigory Yavlinsky as his authorised representatives. Certainly, the order on their expulsion uses different wording "for poor academic progress" - even though they were simply not admitted to the exams owing to their absence from classes. The documents justifying their absence, including quotes from laws, were simply not considered. The students were clearly made to understand why. Dmitri Barkovsky adds: "My friends -and I don’t want to name them - also participated in the election campaign and were called into the dean’s office owing to their absence from classes for a quite a long time and were told, "Guys, you should have been careful in your choice of party". The Institute of the Military Industry, now characterised by Westerners as "the home of Soviet rocket forces" has never sympathised with liberal ideas and values. The US State Department has still not revoked sanctions against this institute and its rector. The American side thinks that the Institute sells Iranian students the newest rocket technologies. Dmitri Barkovsky, future engineer-designer of technical complexes and rocket launchers, could have avoided expulsion from the fourth year. He had only to accept the proposal from the FSB people. In the best traditions of the genre recruitment took place directly at university. Dmitri Barkovsky: "The whole conversation can be summed up as follows: they tried to obtain some details from me on Yabloko’s political activity, about its internal structure, the financing of the election campaign, the people in charge and their functions. I refused to answer these questions. I tried not to answer these questions, as I did not know anything and did not feel that it was appropriate to answer. Then they threatened me, saying that I would be expelled from the Institute. They also threatened me with Putin’s decree on military conscription of 15.000 people. They promised to send me to Chechnya. Under these threats they made me sign a letter where I promised to co-operate with them and correspondingly refused to reveal this information." Either the secret services has changed, or students do not know or remember how dangerous it was to fight such a powerful department: whatever the reason, these individuals refuse to keep silent. Has this incident discouraged you from political activity in any form at all? Dmitri Barkovsky: "In general I think this shouldn’t be discouraging. It can be intimidating, but I understand that it should not be like this. Of course I am slightly scared, but I think that this should not happen, therefore I shall act." The St.Petersburg branch of the FSB where we turned to for comments and explanations did not deny or confirm these recruitment methods and instead asked us to wait until their chiefs had reviewed the situation. It would appear that the situation has still not been reviewed."

Dorenko: I wanted to discuss this information with Grigory Yavlinsky. Grigory Yavlinsky is in our studio now. Good evening.

Yavlinsky: Good evening.

Dorenko: You have stood up for the students: as far as I know, you have sent written inquiries to virtually everybody: the President, Public Prosecutor-General and the Director of the FSB. Has anyone answered?

Yavlinsky: Not much time has passed. As you know, this coincided with other events. But I think that the creation of an atmosphere of spying and blackmail in our country will lead to huge losses for our country. The recreation of a society built on informers will simply disillusion the best people. This will involve the creation of such conditions when they will neither wish to participate in public life or work in this country. This will cause huge losses for us.

Dorenko: You will be able to defend these two guys, because they worked for you and you are a public person, a well-known individual. What guarantees can exist for such people, for their fellow workers, for their neighbours? Will you defend them all?

Yavlinsky: I think that this is at the core of all present developments. I think that the attack on NTV represents an attack on an independent source of information or even on the notion of an independent source of information. For the freedom to transmit information and speak about this information is the only way to protect the interests of every citizen that we have been talking about here. And this is a very broad attack. Have you noticed which structures were involved? Simply all of them!

Dorenko: Yes, all of them…

Yavlinsky: The tax police, the FSB, the office of the Public Prosecutor-General. Consequently, we need to build a very broad coalition to fight them.

Dorenko: I am afraid that the audience will think that I was personally offended here, but I feel that I should not hide anything. To be honest I would like to state that the tax police pursued me for six months: as a result they discovered that they owed me 800 roubles for 1995. For six months - from December 1998 until June 1999 - two officers received salaries for following me. Why did nobody back me then? Why do they do it now? Has it become more obvious now? Or is it simply a clan thing? A clan close to you or someone else was touched, a more noticeable clan was touched and then there was a less noticeable clan.

Yavlinsky: To be fair, you should admit that you did not call and did not inform me.

Dorenko: This is true.

Yavlinsky: This young man informed me officially, writing everything that you have just mentioned. I would like to say here that when the level of economic crime, terrorism, and general crime is so high, maybe it is better to spare the time of two FSB officers following Dorenko.

Dorenko: The tax police. But it is not important.

Yavlinsky: …or catch young people who are Yabloko supporters. I would like to turn to…

Dorenko: You have written that you are also being followed.

Yavlinsky: Yes. Such decisions are being taken in general. I have also felt this. I simply wanted to propose on your and my behalf so that everybody interested would contact us. I am ready to meet at certain hours all the heads of the FSB and the office of the Public Prosecutor General and tell them everything that what we do and why we do it to save them their time.

Dorenko: But I am not ready to accept them and waste my time. Although the goal is the same, you are ready to accept them with this goal, but I am not.

Yavlinsky: I mean the time of the people who work there, if they cannot work differently.

Dorenko: What is your opinion? Do you agree with my thesis that today all the orders, telegrams and ciphered telegrams are absolutely unnecessary? Was this persecution of your people in St.Petersburg connected with some guesswork by these blunderheads about what their bosses need?

Yavlinsky: In general, of course you have been speaking about what makes the robots move. (Ed. Dorenko’s earlier allusion to the secret services as old and forgotten robots that start moving to specific tunes). And recently we have heard that not only robots, but even monuments have begun moving.

Dorenko: The former monument was spoilt, now Tsereteli will have to make a new one. (Ed.about Dzerzhinsky’s monument that had been removed from the central square in Moscow and talks about returning the monument to its place. The sculptor Tsereteli is known for his expensive and huge monuments).

Yavlinsky: I mean the information that they are going to restore the monument to Dzerzhinsky, even this has begun moving. In reality these tunes come not only from our President and the ruling structures, but also from our mass media, when they begin speculating on such things during election campaigns as liaisons with the west, the digging of a tunnel from Bombay to London, etc. These tunes are momentarily turned onto…

Dorenko: You are also ready to repress the mass media, but only the anti-Western mass media. I did not intend to picket here at all.

Yavlinsky: You are absolutely right. I simply wanted to say that when fanning a fire, you should think about the final flames. But today I wanted to say the following: you see that today even Zyuganov has been defending NTV. And tomorrow Zyuganov will defend you, if they try again to do to you the same thing they did when they turned you out of the studio and you were not allowed to work. And why is this happening? Because people are basically interested, all of us are interested in being able to speak to each other, so that we have independent sources of information, which would allow for direct and open debates about our problems. Today it is time to create an anti-fascist coalition of all forces. You have already shown almost all of them from Chubais to Zyuganov. Everybody who wants to live in our country safely and calmly and sees developments as a hindrance.

Dorenko: I wanted to ask you about business. In any case, Americans and many other people draw attention to the fact that this is a mass media. In my opinion, the signal that the secret services and military are attacking the lower confines may be also regarded as a persecution of business. However, business is in a very vulnerable position, it is really vulnerable, you see. This means that anyone can be prosecuted. The question is where you start – it is not an idle question. Everyone wants order, but the order of today. People cannot be made liable for 1989, when some laws allowed business, while others did not. Because everyone can be prosecuted then. And any dissenters may be persecuted.

Yavlinsky: Let us begin with developments at NTV and my authorised representatives. This does not have any connection with establishing order. I can tell you what the establishment of order means. They should start with the most important public events. The murder of Vladislav Listyev, murder of Galina Starovoitova, murder of Dmitri Kholodov, explosions in Moscow. That’s where you should start, if you really want to establish order. Or if you want to take on the oligarchs, you should tackle the most significant events, rather than some "Russkoye Video". The latter implies that it is merely a settling of scores between different clans. This is revenge. Consequently, everyone should understand that the economic reforms in our country were conducted in such a way that today you can accuse anybody of anything.

Dorenko: Are you advocating a zero starting point?

Yavlinsky: I think that we should definitely stop living in the past. I think that this should not be a topic of analysis any more. I think that everybody’s snouts should be removed from the trough rather than investigating what they ate in this trough five years ago. This is what I advocate. Otherwise it will be absolutely impossible to live in this country. The evening settlement of scores will be transformed into permanent hell. Two dogs fighting over one bone seldom reach agreement: this is what we can see now. A line should be drawn under all this once and forever.

Dorenko: I have always thought that the law on Yeltsin (Ed. on preservation of privileges for the ex-President) is such a line. This means that Yeltsin has been forgiven, that Yeltsinism was forgiven, the Yeltsin regime and Yeltsin privatisation was forgiven. Ok, guys, from now on we will shall imprison people, in adherence with the law, rather than the laws interpreted by stupid bureaucrats. It should be law. Because that was an era of chaos and in this era anyone could be prosecuted for crossing the road at the zebra crossing.

Yavlinsky: I interpreted the adopted law differently, although I think it is right that political revenge is absolutely impossible. But I would like to stress once again that when 97% of the population are impoverished, and the remaining 3% engage in constant infighting, this means that the country faces a great threat, which is not comic, but tragic. And please make note: this will happen without any participation from the West here. We will do this on our own. Therefore, I think that we should focus today on reviewing priorities and engaging in important problems, including the restoration of order, as this is absolutely necessary.

ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals