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Igor Arkhipov

What will a Contract Army Cost the People?

An interview with Igor Artemyev (Yabloko).

St. Petersburg Chas Pik April 18 - 24, 2001, p. 3

Question: There has been a lot of media discussion about discord within the Union of Right-Wing Forces. Does this indicate an impending crisis?

Nemtsov: We are strong now, and there are no crises within the organisation. This is not just my statement as a Union of Right-Wing Forces leader, by the way. Opinion polls indicate it. The level of trust in the Union of Right-Wing Forces is stable. It is estimated at 10-11% at present, even though we obtained only 8.5% of votes in the last election. We have established 80 regional branches across the country. Regarding conflicts within the Union of Right-Wing Forces, there is nothing to those reports. We are a young organisation, and all young organisations are permitted a period of some internal bickering. We are about to establish a political party. This is a significant moment for us all. All the component organisations within the Union of Right-Wing Forces should disband. Naturally, this is a painful process for their members. I would even call it traumatic. In my view, this is natural for a transition period. So I don't doubt that, despite all this natural turbulence we will convene the congress on May 26, elect the ruling bodies and the head of the political council. And we will found a political party which will obtain no less than 15% in the next election and take at least 100 seats in the Duma. We hope to form a party which will be able to contest regional elections all over Russia. And finally, we hope to make it a party which will be able to nominate its leader for president. I'm convinced that in 2008, if not 2004, Russia will have a right-wing president.

Question: Do you mean Putin is from the left?

Nemtsov: Our president lacks a clear strategy. His attitude toward the state symbols and other episodes clearly demonstrate this fact.

Question: This idea of an alliance with Yabloko - how feasible is it? Experience tends to indicate that Yavlinsky is never eager to unite with anyone, and wants the leadership for himself when he does.

Nemtsov: I think we should be logical about this issue. The Union of Right-Wing Forces party should be formed first. A party with a clear administrative system and a network of regional branches... A powerful party, in other words. The issue of unification with Yabloko should be handled simultaneously. Our future alliance is not a utopia, it is a gradual process. I agree that there is such an issue as a leader's ambitions, but I don't think we should exaggerate them. After all, we may find ourselves in a situation where unification will become essential, or the right-wing movement in Russia will be finished...

Establishing a right-wing party is not a dream of Nemtsov, Khakamada, Kiryenko, or anyone else. This is a strategic matter. We have a left-wing movement in Russia, we have had it for over 100 years already. We have a pro-government party in Russia which will last as long as Russian bureaucracy lasts (and the latter is immortal, as we all know). However, I'm convinced that the fate of the nation is going to be decided on the right. If the right is not available, then it will be a matter of choosing between the left and bureaucrats. A choice between the bad and the horrible, in other words. Just the way it has been until now.

Question: You hope to gather more votes in the next election than you did in the previous one. What is the reason for such confidence? What voters do you rely on?

Nemtsov: First and foremost, our voters are people with college educations. There are millions of them in Russia. They are independent people who don't depend on the state, psychologically or financially. They are business people. Needless to say, the voters we rely on also include democratically-minded elderly people who still remember past humiliations. Our voters include youths who don't want to live in barracks and who want to be free. They also include women...

Question: Political, economic, and administrative mechanisms existing in this country took years or decades to form and take root. Breaking them apart is not going to be easy...

Nemtsov: I understand Putin. It is hard for him. He had to start with a major staffing manoeuvre. He needs thousands of new people in government and civil service. A new generation is needed. Such people have mostly gone into business. To attract them and enlist their services, their qualifications should first be tested. Secondly, the authorities should announce openly that state officials will be better-paid. This is needed to prevent corruption. And what has happened in real life? A person is dismissed from the Defence Ministry and moved to the Security Council. Another is dismissed from the Security Council and moved to the Defence Ministry...

Question: What is your opinion on developments in information policy?

Nemtsov: In my view, attitudes toward the media are of paramount importance. It may be advisable to apply anti-monopoly legislation in this sphere. The president and the government control over 50% of the media these days. This is wrong. Their reasoning and motives are understandable. Some of Putin's advisers adhere to the principle that real developments in Russia don't matter, while what is broadcast on TV does. If we hadn't been shown footage of people freezing in Maritime Territory, we would have believed that everything was all right there. Had we not been shown mass graves in Chechnya, we would have decided that the war was over. This is dangerous, because the authorities may reach 2008 with the media absolutely monopolised. Independent media are needed, first and foremost, to combat corruption. If the president means to do away with corruption, he has to leave the independent media alone. In my view, however, the president is now aiming to stay in power. This is his only goal.

If we give up now, no opposition to the bureaucracy will remain by 2008. We have seen all this already. If we have any self-respect, we will command the respect of others too. Because all the authorities, including the president, respect strength. We are out to form a powerful organisation which the bureaucracy will not be able to ignore.

St. Petersburg Chas Pik April 18 - 24, 2001, p. 3