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Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 19, 2003

The Union of Right-Wing Forces is afraid that YABLOKO may be siding with the Kremlin

By Anatoly Kostyukov

Sources at YABLOKO headquarters yesterday refused to confirm reports in the media that party leader Grigory Yavlinsky had visited the Kremlin the previous evening.

"There have been no visits," said YABLOKO deputy leader Sergei Mitrokhin when asked for details of the meeting.

Yavlinsky's Press Secretary Eugeniya Dillendorf told us that YABLOKO would neither confirm nor deny the reports - leaving the privilege to Echo of Moscow radio, which first reported Yavlinsky's visit to the Kremlin. Dillendorf meant it. Even YABLOKO's official website didn't post a confirmation or denial of the reports yesterday.

A senior presidential administration official only had this to say: "Even if Yavlinsky did visit the Kremlin, he did not meet the president." In the afternoon, however, some insiders who insisted on remaining anonymous ventured to speculate that Yavlinsky had been invited to meet Putin to discuss nuclear waste imports. This may have been a false theory aimed at misleading the curious.

In any event, observers suspect that Yavlinsky was invited to the Kremlin and asked to run for president. These suspicions are particularly strong in the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS), because Yavlinsky's separate negotiations with the president would ruin plans for the two parties to cooperate in the presidential campaign. (Ed. In fact, YABLOKO's leaders reiterated that they thought it incorrect to nominate a party candidate for the presidential elections given the lack of free democratic elections, free mass media and independent judiciary.)

It is common knowledge that the SPS had been hoping until the very last moment that it would be possible to nominate a single candidate. However, negotiations have failed to produce any results. Leaders of the two political parties refuse to admit it, but reliable sources claim that the search for candidates is over. The SPS has asked YABLOKO to join it in boycotting the election, or urge YABLOKO supporters to vote against all candidates.

On Wednesday, several YABLOKO functionaries admitted that the boycott idea was tempting. Yavlinsky himself said: "I do not plan to take part in the presidential elections, as I do not consider them to be democratic." In other words, an alliance was being formed on the right wing: an alliance the Communists may have joined as well.

Needless to say, the prospect of a boycott frightened the Kremlin - and Yavlinsky may have been summoned in the hope of persuading the YABLOKO leader to abandon a protest action that could jeopardize the necessary voter turnout.

There is still no confirmation of whether Yavlinsky did visit the Kremlin, or what was discussed there if he did. Valery Khomyakov, a member of the SPS political council, doesn't believe
that any joint action with YABLOKO is possible. "I'm convinced that Saturday's YABLOKO congress will nominate Yavlinsky for president," he said. "The Kremlin will even help him with his presidential campaign."

Some democrats retain the hope that common sense will prevail. Lyudmila Alexeyeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group sent an open letter to YABLOKO and SPS leaders, urging them to continue their search for a joint candidate. If they fail, Alexeyeva encourages leaders of the parties to ask for their voters' opinions.


See also:

The 12th Congress of YABLOKO

Presidential elections 2004


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 19, 2003

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