Speaking at his party's federal council on Saturday, Yabloko leader Grigory
Yavlinsky hinted that if he was offered a post in Vladimir Putin's
government, he would most likely accept it. Furthermore, addressing the
gathering convened to outline the party's election priorities for next
year's parliamentary campaign, Yavlinsky pledged his full support for the
Kremlin in all key areas of national development.
The session of the party's governing body - the federal council – was held
in the village of Moskovsky near the capital on Saturday, December 21. The
hall of the House of Culture where the session was held was packed with
Such avid interest by rank and file Yabloko members in the event was,
according to the organizers, attributable to rapid growth in party ranks
recently. They stated that in 2002 the number of Yabloko members had grown
two and a half times to 26,500 members by December 20.
A present, about 2000 new members are joining the party every month.
Needless to say that the party activists were eager to attend such an
important gathering, especially as its agenda included the programme speech
by Grigory Yavlinsky.
First of all, the session agreed on an agenda for the gathering. It included
the discussion of the outcome of the election to the Legislative Assembly of
St. Petersburg held earlier this month, the financial situation in the party
and the coalition policy in the upcoming parliamentary election campaign.
Addressing the session, Yavlinsky began his report entitled "Political
objectives and priorities in an election year", with an analysis of the
socio-economic system of Russia, which he described as "capitalism under
mafia laws". The party leader said that if Putin used the power entrusted
to him to overcome that "mafia capitalism", Yabloko would fully support
According to Yavlinsky, at the moment the President is not taking such
steps. As an example he cited the much-discussed dispute between Vladimir
Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov over the problems of economic
growth in Russia. Earlier this year the President demanded that the
government revise its economic growth forecast, criticizing its lack of
ambition. According to the Yabloko leader, his party plans to support a
policy of accelerated economic growth.
Later in his speech Yavlinsky pledged support to Putin on virtually all his
initiatives. For instance, speaking of the foreign policy of the state, the
party leader said that his standpoint on all matters in that sphere fully
coincided with that of the president.
In particular, Yavlinsky agreed with President Putin's calls for Russians to
be granted the right to visa-free travel throughout the European Union. As
Putin has in fact given way to the EU on the Kaliningrad issue, one can only
conjecture about the real reason for the Yabloko leader’s gullibility.
After the President openly sided with Yavlinsky, and at the same time
pointedly distanced himself from Yavlinsky's liberal rival Boris Nemtsov,
the sudden change of heart by the Yabloko leadership in its relations with
the Kremlin is not altogether surprising.
Speaking of the problems in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, in general,
Yabloko's position also proved quite similar to that of the Kremlin.
"Victory in Chechnya is victory in the minds of the Chechen people,"
Yavlinsky said passionately. "We were close to that in 1999. But what
happened next was a mistake. There is no military solution for Chechnya,"
he concluded, reiterating Putin's stance, and proposed a peace conference,
inviting "everyone except war criminals"to take part in its work. In other words, everyone other than those continuing to put up armed resistance to
the federal troops in the war-torn province.
But then, such a congress has already been held under the auspices of the
federal authorities in the Chechen town of Gudermes. The gathering, entitled
the Congress of the Chechen People, was held earlier this month and pledged
loyalty to Russia and agreed on the adoption of a Constitution for the Chechen Republic.
Speaking at a news briefing following the council session, Yavlinsky,
touching upon the reforms of the public utilities and housing complex as
well as those of the national power grid monopoly UES of Russia, backed the
Kremlin's initiatives here too, stating that change is necessary.
"The only question is how those reforms are to be implemented." Yavlinsky
added: "Reform of the housing complex at the expense of citizens and their
incomes - which are not high anyway - is absolutely unacceptable."
In the opinion of the Yabloko leader, the smallest increase in housing
payments must go hand in hand with an improvement in the quality of the
And the reform implemented by [the UES chief Anatoly] Chubais runs counter
to Yabloko's position. For the energy system reform to be implemented
effectively, a whole series of vital laws first need to be enacted.
Those include, in particular, a law on the assets of the Unified Energy
Systems of Russia, and a law that would ensure the transparent and honest
privatization of the company, "so that the entire country could monitor the
Grigory Yavlinsky left the most sensational part of his speech until last,
stating: "We are ready to join the government, not the government joining
Yabloko. With such a programme we enter 2003, the election year."
Yavlinsky's words could be perceived as a veiled acceptance of Putin's
earlier proposal to the Yabloko leader to become the head of the State
Construction Committee, which Yavlinsky politely refused. Yavlinsky's
statement made at Saturday's session may also be perceived as an offer of a
new bargain with the Kremlin, implying: well, I agree, but the post must be
Also on Saturday the federal council of Yabloko discussed the principles of
the party's coalition policy in view of the upcoming parliamentary election.
It is common knowledge that the two leading liberal parties ofRussia -
Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces - have struggled
Lately to form a pre-election coalition so that the alliance could secure
more seats in the lower house and nominate a single candidate for the post
of President in 2004.
However, owing the strong personal dislike that the party leaders Yavlinsky
and Nemtsov have towards each other, those efforts at a federal level have
so far proved abortive. At the same time, the parties have agreed to
nominate one candidate in single-seat constituencies at next year's
parliamentary elections. Speaking on Saturday, Yavlinsky noted that
agreements on the nomination of such candidates have already been reached in