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"Politbureau" journal, March 17, 2003

Grigory Yavlinsky: "Mop-ups, robberies and violence should be stopped."

Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky

Grigory Yavlinsky
Today the Fifth Meeting of the All-Russia Democratic Assembly opens in Moscow. It is convened to discuss the forthcoming referendum in the Chechen Republic. One of the participants of the Democratic Assembly, the leader of the YABLOKO party Grigory Yavlinsky is convinced that the preliminary conditions for holding a referendum in Chechnya have still to be created. In an interview with the Politbureau journal he expressed his views on how to resolve the crisis in the republic.

Question: Grigory Alexeevich, what is your attitude to the forthcoming referendum in Chechnya?

Yavlinsky: In my view the referendum on the Constitution of Chechnya is badly timed and unprepared, and its consequences raise concern. If the referendum should be on the agenda, the following questions should be asked: which would you prefer? To be a republic within Russia, be granted autonomy within Russia or be completely independent? I believe that this topic would be of interest to people and should be covered by the referendum. My personal opinion is that the majority will say: autonomy within Russia. And only then should the executive authorities, the parliament be created to prepare a new constitution. Obviously, regulation in the republic is only possible through a broad-scale political process. And the referendum projected by the authorities, as well as the subsequent elections to republican and local authorities can become part of this political process. However, the preliminary conditions which are lacking at present, should be created to implement this all. It is impossible to comprehensively discuss in such a short time frame a draft of the new Constitution [of Chechnya] either in Chechnya or in Russia. The consequences of an unprepared referendum can also bring dangers: they can aggravate contradictions inside the Chechen community: they can play into the hands of the forces interested in civil war.Tension will go beyond Chechnya, and will be felt all over Russia.

Question: Then why are the authorities speeding up this process? Perhaps this is related to the rush with the election campaign [to the State Duma].

Yavlinsky: The authorities see that this is leading to another deadlock. They also realize that some political process is required. But they mould this political process according to their understanding. Yesterday there was war, and today we start the political process: we will withdraw 1,000 soldiers, and then it look as if everything is settling down.

Question: How do you perceive the political process in Chechnya? Do you have your own proposals on how to resolve the Chechen problem?

Yavlinsky: We need to provide legal backing for the situation in the republic. In addition, the mop-up operations, tortures, kidnappings, robberies and violence should be abolished. The federal centre should promote negotiations between all the conflicting parties. All this should lead to the organisation of a peace conference on Chechnya, which should be chaired by the President of Russia. Everything focused on this idea is right. The conference should be based on Russian laws and the Russian Constitution. This procedure does not present any threat to Moscow, as the President will represent Moscow at the conference. The Chechen participants can all be important individuals, other than odious figures and criminals. However, the Chechen participants in the conference will subsequently determine the policies of the republic. Moscow would instead like to hold elections right after the referendum - this is not correct.

Question: Who, in your opinion, can compete for the presidency in Chechnya?

Yavlinsky: I don't know yet. Kadyrov (Ed. The acting president of Chechnya) will try to become President. The federal centre will obviously try to find someone else. But all these moves are artificial. All this has already taken place, and has not yielded any positive results. Conditions for more or less normal elections in Chechnya have not been created yet.

Question: What can happen in Chechnya after the referendum? What is your forecast on the end of war in Chechnya?

Yavlinsky: I think that the situation will remain roughly unchanged, only tougher. However, you cannot expect anything else. For the time being the forecast is not very optimistic. The peace conference should become the first step to ending the war. Russia has positive experience: it organized the peace talks between the Tajik authorities and the opposition. Recently the President of Russia brought together at one negotiating table the President of Georgia Shevardnadze and representatives from Abkhazia. He managedto do this.

Question: Can the Council of Europe declare the referendum in Chechnya illegitimate?

Yavlinsky: As far as I know, these are the plans of the Council of Europe. But this is very bad for everybody. The lack of recognition for the results of the referendum will give a new impulse, a kind of legitimate base for everybody who continues the war in Chechnya. Failure to recognize the referendum means that everything remains unchanged. Moreover, the authorities will be elected in Chechnya, but everyone will say: "we don't recognize all this, as the referendum was not recognized, and this means that both the new constitution and elections are void." This means that everything is void. And the war will continue.

On the other hand, the Council of Europe cannot recognize the referendum, as the referendum does not comply with elementary requirements. This is obvious to everyone. By the way, this is the inevitable consequence of a constant retreat from principles and values in politics. The political conjuncture led the Council of Europe to a deadlock because it was ambiguous and inconsistent. All this led to the disbanding of the Duma's PACE commission was abolished. It now transpires that the Council of Europe cannot recognize the referendum: this will merely aggravate the situation.


See also:

Democratic Assembly

War in Chechnya

Press Release, March 17, 2003.The Fifth Meeting of the All-Russia Democratic Assembly adopted a statement on how to resolve the crisis in Chechnya.

Statement from the All-Russia Democratic Assembly: "On our attitude to a referendum on Constitution in Chechnya and the need to convene a peace conference." Moscow, March 17, 2003.

"Politbureau" journal, March 17, 2003

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