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Gazeta, March 25, 2003

Grigory Yavlinsky: "The President Alone Cannot Control Everything."

Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky

Yavlinsky is ready to help the President, once his party overcomes the five per cent barrier and is again elected to the State Duma. However, YABLOKO’s leader told Gazeta correspondent Olga Redichkina that he "does not have any special relationship with the President."

"Russian bureaucrats will be broadly represented in the Duma."

Correspondent: How do you assess the recent reshuffles in the Government and strengthening of the security bloc?

Yavlinsky: Staff changes in our Government continue the Byzantium tradition of performing tasks without explaining the reason for dismissals and changes. The second is quite serious: we have to introduce civil control over the security services, either the FSB, the interior ministry or the tax police… While this problem is not resolved, the crux of the matter does not change, as you can be sure that any unlawful act could be performed under both the previous and present system…

Correspondent: … and under the next system…

Yavlinsky: Exactly, if organised without civil control. For one person alone – the President – cannot control everything in the Russian Federation, which means they all go unpunished. God save any ordinary man who gets stuck in such a machine!

Correspondent: Who will get into the State Duma during the next elections? Will "United Russia" win a constitutional majority, as it threatens to?

Yavlinsky: I don’t know: it is too early to speak about this. I can only tell you about the kind of Duma that society needs. Society needs an independent Duma. If we have an imitation Duma instead of a real Duma, and the court and elections, parties and politics are also an imitation, then we may end up with an imitation of presidential power. We should not forget about this. The Duma should represent the interests of the whole of society, and not only the authorities. Regarding the most powerful detachment – the detachment of Russian bureaucrats – it will obviously be broadly represented in the Duma.

"If some protagonists are always shown [on TV], their ratings may become negative."

Correspondent: And what about YABLOKO? They say that you have a problem obtaining five per cent of votes.

Yavlinsky: Every time they say this, but we are in the State Duma. And we will do all we can to win for a fourth time.

Correspondent: How much success or failure at elections will depend on whether your or some other party appears on the TV screen? Is there a direct correlation?

Yavlinsky: The correlation is considerable, although not direct. Incidentally, if some protagonists are always shown [on TV], their rating may become negative. If you continue telling people that "you will live badly, but not for long" and "we need to tighten our belts", call this "reforms" and sing this "song" from the TV screen for almost 24 hours, then such an "appearance" won’t be of help. Television in itself is not an absolute method to resolve the rating problem. If, for example, the communists are not shown on TV at all, their rating begins to exceed 40%.

"In Russia the right-wing is identified with the oligarchs."

Correspondent: People talk about your "special relationships" with the President. What are you discussing with him? Does he follow your advice? They say that he is positive towards.

Yavlinsky: I don’t have any "special relationship" with the President. During the last meeting we discussed the situation around Iraq, the housing and communal services sector, a visa-free regime for our citizens in Europe, the problem of nuclear waste imports into the country and economic policy – all the issues we have been discussing with you.

Correspondent: People say that the President listens to everyone and gives the interlocutor the feeling that he will follow his advice, but acts as he chooses. Does he really listen to your assessments?

Yavlinsky: He acts as he chooses. Which, by the way, is absolutely right.

Correspondent: Is the Kremlin interested in a strong right wing?

Yavlinsky: The possibilities of the so-called right wing are restricted by the size of this electorate. In Russia the right wing is identified with the oligarchs. Therefore they will obviously attract a small number of voters. And what is the right wing, in your opinion?

Correspondent: Advocates of liberal values, human rights and liberties, a free market.

Yavlinsky: There are two principally different political groups. There is the right wing – they are concerned about above all with considerable property ownership. Their task is to protect the interests of large-scale owners. In Russia large-scale property is inseparately connected with the state and the authorities. Therefore, in their policies the right wing always follow the policies implemented by the authorities. The rhetoric can be different, but their performance always corresponds to this direction. It is very easy to provide examples here. The first is the position on Chechnya during the election campaign of 1999. The right wing shared the government’s view. In the discussion between the NTV [channel] and Gazprom the right wing took the side of Gazprom, as Gazprom is a state company. They tried fooling us that this was "a dispute between two economic subjects". Then in the dispute between TV6 [TV company] and Lukoil, they backed Lukoil for the same reason.

I can provide countless examples. Let me give one more example – the position on Iraq. The right wing are saying: "Let the US promise that Iraq will return our debts and will work with our oil companies. And then they can do with Iraq whatever they want. And then, if the occasion arises, we are ready to consider human rights and liberal values… But only after that and on this condition."

"YABLOKO are virtually liberal democrats."

Correspondent: And what about YABLOKO?

Yavlinsky: We have a different initial position. YABLOKO essentially represents liberal democrats. For us the key values are human rights, civil liberties, a pluralistic democracy, competitive market economy and efficient social system. YABLOKO is a liberal-social party.

We are ready to fruitfully cooperate with the right wing provided that they adhere to right-wing ideas and don’t masquerade as liberal democrats. If they stopped this masquerade, we could find common grounds in many issues. Not all, but many of them, especially on important, principled issues. Out of tact we will not now dwell on "the extreme right wing". But such a definition is not occasional. The right wing is often transformed into the extreme right wing, when the authorities lean that way.

"Life will prompt us."

Correspondent: Has your position on Iraq changed since the beginning of military actions? What should Russia do to retain its standing in the world and at the same time observe all the humanistic principles?

Yavlinsky: Russia should do all it can to cut down the number of victims and terminate the war as soon as possible.

Correspondent: How?

Yavlinsky: Life will prompt us. For example, not so long ago, in 1999, Russia resolved a very complicated problem, by prohibiting a ground campaign in Yugoslavia. The criterion and goal of Russia is to reduce the number of human victims. That is why the first task is to achieve a termination of the war as soon as possible. The second - the conflict will be over and the situation will return to the legal mainstream. This happened several times after the Second World War and the creation of the UN. Our country has to preserve the relationships of strategic partnership with Europe and the USA. Baghdad’s regime is not worth an exchange of Russia’s strategic interests. And there is finally the third task. Russia can occupy a leading position in the development of proposals to rule out any repetition of these events in future. There are many dictatorship regimes that seek to possess weapons of mass destruction. It is unspeakable to begin a war each time to disarm another regime. We should do all we can to ensure that such initiatives are formulated and submitted by Russia to the UN Security Council in the near future.


Gazeta, March 25, 2003

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