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Grigory Yavlinsky answers the questions of foreign journalists
The State Duma,
December 23, 1999

Grigory Yavlinsky: Good morning. I propose that we start right away with your questions. As we like to say, you have the questions and we have the answers.

Question: How do you assess the defeat of your party at the elections?

Yavlinsky: We think that we managed to implement a number of principled tasks in the electoral campaign. We submitted an alternative budget, where we listed our proposals on radical tax cuts, which is one of the key areas. We also proposed a number of other solutions in our alternative budget to reduce the shadow economy and resolve a number of other issues related to debt repayment, the devaluation of the rouble and other very important elements of economic policy. This budget was submitted to the Duma. You can find it at Yabloko's site and read it for yourself.

It was the first time in Russia's politics that a political party had submitted a virtually complete document of this kind. The second aspect of our electoral campaign concerns our declaration on the situation in Chechnya with a call to settle politically the situation there.

It was made when it became clear that the campaign in Chechnya was no longer an anti-terrorist operation, that it was a large-scale war, a war of retribution, a conquest; when it became clear that the military actions was bringing more and more refugees and victims and that the terrorists had not been punished, prosecuted, caught or liquidated.

Our declaration was firm. It included a call that was ignored by most people: I would like to draw your special attention to it - a demand to adopt laws regulating the actions of Russian troops in Chechnya. In the declaration we demanded a publication by the Supreme Commander of all the decrees issued in connection with the war in Chechnya. Furthermore we called for the abolition of the presidential decree on the military conscription of soldiers in their first year of service to the war front: such a decree leads to the virtual slaughter of all these soldiers.

We spoke about this issue throughout the campaign: we even conducted press conferences with the soldiers' mothers, so that nobody had any illusions about the firmness of our position, as it was always mixed on the central television channels. Only attendants at our meetings witnessed the full scope of the declaration. It was very important to us.

Thirdly, we absolutely rejected the illegal developments in St Petersburg. A precedent of new illegal actions has been created: the manipulation and theft of voting bulletins determined the terms of the elections and, consequently, the choice of actual Governor. Why should the State Duma be elected, when the Legislative Assembly of St Petersburg, Russia's second capital, can permit such developments? We managed to secure corresponding resolutions of the Supreme Court of the RF and even the Presidium of the Supreme Court of Russia.

Let me move on to the next point. During the election we managed to demonstrate to society the threat posed by a Union Agreement with Byelorussia. The world and the country as a whole saw this - saw how we left the hall, when Lukashenko delivered his speech in the Duma. Forty per cent of the members of the faction, including its leaders, did not ratify the agreement.

Lastly, we refused to kiss the rulers' hands. We did not join the rank and file and join the common wave of military-nationalistic hysteria. Nevertheless people constantly sought our direct support for the new Prime Minister, but we retained our independence and political line.

We think that we were right to adhere to all the main aspects of our electoral campaign. We are satisfied that we managed to do this. Our receipt of 6% of the vote - I don't know whether this is related to fraud and falsification, I cannot say anything here, but I admit that this was the level of support for Yabloko - was related to the over-riding atmosphere in the country, the specifics of the activity of the mass media and our refusal to co-operate with the Kremlin, the government and the governors' bloc.

We retained our electorate. The number of votes gained by Yabloko today equals the number of votes that we obtained at previous elections. We believe that this is our just dessert. We think that it is good that we managed to retain our electorate. However, we expected to gain more support and wanted to achieve more. If the electoral campaign had not been held during a state of war and did not start with explosions of blocks of flats - which drove the society into such a state that it became difficult to conduct any elections at all - if this campaign had not been built around one man and had not been implemented through different forms of manipulation, Yabloko could have scored results that tallied with the surveys. Then we would have been twice as large.

Q.: Sergey Stepashin said that your results may on the whole be attributed to the fact that your votes were appropriated by the SPS (the Union of Right-Wing Forces), as your programmes are virtually identical for any ordinary man and even for an expert. Do you agree with him here? Do you think that the SPS can be your closest ally in the Duma?

Yavlinsky: You can see the programme of the SPS, if you look outside this window. It doesn't require any books or articles. This is what we have today. This is privatisation conducted through auctions involving collateral and investment tenders, the distribution of property among a narrow circle of individuals. This also represents the defaulting and bankruptcy of the country. This is the SPS programme. It did not change at all. Nothing new was introduced here. Our programme is provided in our budget, which I mentioned earlier.

The SPS clearly adopted the right nationalistic position, which is very tempting, especially for young people. Young people in all countries, including your countries, very easily swing to right-wing nationalistic and left-wing nationalistic directions. It prefers such extremes. I can only add that if Yabloko had conducted at least one concert, as the right forces did, it could have ended its electoral campaign immediately. Yabloko's traditional electorate would not have accepted such actions.

The SPS exploited the niche that had previously only been exploited by Zhirinovsky. But the SPS still differed from Zhirinovsky and managed to attracted more votes. Our electorate remained with us: they did not take anything from us. We did not manage to take more. This is the truth.

Q. Don't you think that your position, which was absolutely steadfast according to your words, was destroyed by Stepashin's opposition?

Yavlinsky: I can say that my declaration was firm due to the document that was published. This position was not expressed verbally: it was written down on paper. What is written there is written. If we turn to other speeches, I am ready to accept that many subsequent declarations that attempted to explain my words were connected with a sense of terror. My declaration was made at a time when the wave of militarism and nationalism rose to such a level that I simply could not refrain from making this declaration. And the wave was already overflowing.

All the television worked as military TV. I realised that it really represented a challenge to public opinion. I could not wait even one day. As I made this declaration from Ulan-Ude, it was partially my fault that I did not have the opportunity to co-ordinate all the details with my colleagues. For example, this declaration might have been unexpected for Stepashin. I should have discussed it with him in advance. But I could not, as I was on a long campaign tour.

By the way, I covered 49,000 kilometres in Russia this time. This is the whole equator. I did not have a chance to act differently, I had to make this declaration at that time. Probably there were attempts at some form of interpretation. Although I have to admit that in general, compared to the level of resistance from the political elite and the establishment, my colleagues did not exceed any limits. That is how I would finish the sentence. I could have expected more criticism. But you can imagine Russian political life, if you are here now. I also had to face the task of preserving the party and continuing the electoral campaign. It would have been simply a sham for a politician to merely persist in my position, so that everything would collapse and would not progress. This should not have been done. This is the limit. I kept it all in my declarations.

It is easy for me to say, as some of you were at my press conferences during my election tour all over the country, and not here, where my speeches were always blurred on television and I could not speak out. Two minutes here and two minutes there, and Svanidzye (Ed. a popular TV political observer) interviews you as if he were a KGB colonel. He provokes a reciprocal reaction. You stop thinking about Chechnya, but instead feel that you are being questioned by a KGB colonel and you are afraid of him. And when this TV channel works in this way, while the first channel is totally inaccessible..... I described my plan when I appeared on Doryenko's programme that one time. I had this very text. It was at the very beginning.

I had already spoken about Maskhadov. Dorenko told me that Maskhadov did not control anything. I said: "Similarly Yeltsin does not control anything. So what should we do now?" This was right after the murder of a deputy of the State Duma in St Petersburg. I said: "Yeltsin says, "don't kill deputies", but they are killed. Do you mean that we must not speak with Yeltsin now? But they speak with Yeltsin". Such a position on Chechnya frightened not only party members, but even television channels.

Q.: Do you think that the union with Stepashin took some of your electorate away?

Yavlinsky: Maybe someone was repelled and maybe someone was attracted. This is politics. If we have to overcome constant reproaches that Yabloko is a sect, we will inevitably have to confront such things. Thereis no well-known politician in Russia who would not be tarnished by Yeltsin. As in Russian folklore, he violated everybody that he managed to grab. But he grabbed them all. One individual managed to leave him at the right time, as early as 1990. All the others were grabbed by him. Give me a single name... You won't be able to do it! A name that is well known. Thank God, there are such people in general, they are in the streets. There are not many: about 6% were not violated by Yeltsin. But this is also not very much. About 10% in Moscow and 6% all over Russia. But I don't know a single pure politician. They were all present and participated.

If we are to speak about Stepashin, I would say that I had to take such a decision - Stepashin refused to tolerate the destruction of a hospital in Buddenovsk. If you don't know the story I can tell you. When Basayev (Ed.: one of the heads of Chechenian terrorists) took hostages there, a plan was hatched to blow up all the hospital with all the children and women and Basayev, and then claim that this had been done by Basayev. Then you will never find the truth. And what would have changed, if it had been exploded? But Stepashin refused to let this be done and resigned. Voluntarily.

Q. Many people say that you achieved this result at the Duma elections, because you have always been in opposition, while the people actually want to see someone who can do something. Do you think you may have to change your approach in future?

Yavlinsky: We certainly have to do more practical things. But first of all we have to find a place where we can do this. Our government is like a brothel: once you enter, you find it very difficult to say later on that you just popped in for a cup of tea. You would find it impossible to explain to your wife. The same thing goes for our electorate: after working for this government, I would find it impossible to explain subsequently that I went there to work and not to steal. This is very difficult. This is a cliche that is really used on a psychological level. This is a psychological code. It works as follows: some people say: "We have defaulted on debt payments: what have you done?" And we opposed this move. "We have made inflation 2,500%. And what have you done?" We opposed this step. "We conducted voucher privatisation, which led to a halving of production. And what have you done?" And we were in opposition.

And the people Sergei Stepashin told us about feel: "look, these people have always been doing something, while those have always been in opposition". And this is perceived by the people. This gives those people some weight and makes them a party of industrious people. Ok, so mistakes were made, as Chubais says. Such mistakes as default, the bankruptcy of the country, a decline in production by 50%, inflation and 80% barter. These are "small" mistakes...However, I am ready to agree here: yes, we have to take practical steps.

In particular, I can invite you all you to Sakhalin to see how the production sharing agreement that we initiated is being implemented there. We are a parliamentary party. We work in parliament and use parliamentary methods. I don't think that only the government works. This is a Soviet habit to thinks that people only work in government.

Q. But the matter is over. We already know the results. We can hold long discussions about the reasons. On December 19, 1999 the first phase was over: the second, which will probably last until June, has begun. I believe that the authorities will fight until the end. How will you prepare for the second round of the fight? There are pessimistic assumptions that they will continue using the mass media, conduct fraudulent elections and attack potential candidates, etc. Have you begun to prepare for this fight? How?

Yavlinsky: This is virtually another factor behind the recent electoral campaign. Yabloko actually ended up campaigning against two blocs of the criminal nomenclatura. The first bloc was represented by the Kremlin and the government and another by the governors. Correspondingly, they applied all the methods that are used in such cases. I have to tell you that in reality it is virtually impossible to combat democratically the means of manipulation and pressure practised by the criminal nomenclatura. There are no such democratic methods.

Therefore, I would like to stress once again that 6% is a good result. This means that, however you reduce the result, you will always have 6%. Speaking about the future, I conduct consultations on this work. But I can firmly state one thing: in the presidential election campaign, in view of the deadline and situation, my position will be clearer and firmer than it was during the Duma elections. The 100 days of the new Prime Minister are over. In addition, I would like to explain to everyone that there was one more element: everyone expected more toughness, but 100 days of the new Prime Minister were over only by the end of the Duma campaign.

Consequently, it is difficult to offer complete assessments during these 100 days. This will be different in the presidential campaign. There I will speak very firmly and make everything quite clear. What will I say? This is very simple - that this is the power of a criminal nomenclatura: the main challenge for Russia is how to extricate itself from this situation. The situation is very simple here: the criminal nomenclatura will use any methods - war or anything else - to resolve its political tasks. The main issue here concerns the search for ways out of this situation both in economics and politics.

I think that the presidential elections in 2000 boil down to a choice between the different solutions proposed by the candidates. This is the crux of the presidential campaign and in general the choice that Russia has to make. That is what I will talk about. But I will conduct the campaign under existing circumstances. I conducted such a campaign in 1996, where there were well-known conditions. I think that this time they will be tougher.

Q.: You said that the whole campaign revolved around one man. What can you say about him? You met him several days ago. What do you think that this man will do in the presidential campaign and in the Duma?

Yavlinsky: I don't know what will happen in the Duma. He did not discuss this issue. He asked us what we would like from the government. I spoke about Chechnya, the economy and the falsifications. I spoke about these three things.

Q.: What do you mean by falsification?

Yavlinsky: I said that I wanted to draw his attention to my concerns about the falsification, that we had collected material that would be submitted to him.

Q.: How did he react?

Yavlinsky: He said Ok. And what else could he say?

Q.: That there were no falsifications. And what about Chechnya?

Yavlinsky: He said that everything was going to plan.

Q.: Do you know what he might do next?

Yavlinsky: I think that you should ask him. I should not comment: I am not a speaker or his press secretary.

Q.: If Stepashin decides to participate, what you will do?

Yavlinsky: In what?

Q. The presidential elections.

Yavlinsky: He said that he did not plan to participate. He told me that the day before yesterday. However, if he were to change his mind and decided to participate, I would be more than ready to discuss this issue with him.

Q.: Would you withdraw your candidature?

Yavlinsky: I don't understand.

Q. If he changes his mind.

Yavlinsky: If he changes his mind, I will be ready to discuss this issue with him.

Q. And?

Yavlinsky: And what? Discuss it. And withdraw either his candidature or mine. But, and I repeat once again, the day before yesterday this question was resolved.

Q: People know that you are soft. You have a permanent electoral base. This is the intelligentsia. Your sessions are held at a completely different level. But you lose with this background, as the population currently wants a "strong hand", and it would seem that Putin is meeting this demand. Which electorate can you rely on apart from this 6%?

G.Y. We shall see what happens in the summer. If Western news agencies are honest about Chechnya, we will see what happens in the summer.

Q. What will happen?

Yavlinsky: We will witness a different attitude. Let us see. How has the situation evolved over the past nine months? This is not a long period, is it? And who was the main presidential candidate in April 1999?

Q.: Luzhkov.

Yavlinsky: Yes, Luzhkov. And in July?

Q: Primakov.

Yavlinsky: That is correct. In August Stepashin was becoming such a candidate. Now Putin is such a candidate. Every two months on average the political elite is absolutely certain about who will become the next president. It is absolutely clear who will be president! There are six months to go before the elections. And there is time to change everything three times.

Q. Do you believe that attitudes on the war have been changing?

Yavlinsky: Yes.

Q.: Did you feel that during the campaign?

Yavlinsky: Yes, both during the campaign tour and in the polls. When I made my declaration, only about 18% opposed the war. This figure has risen to 56%. This is quite a different situation. Just remember how you bombed Kosovo: it appeared initially that everyone agreed: then people began demonstrating their disagreement more and more. It is clear: when a war begins, the propaganda reaches a climax. In our country the propaganda is related to the explosions of blocks of flats.

Q. I am sorry to make this statement, but one merely needs to blow up two or three more houses in April-May, and that is that.

Yavlinsky: I would recommend you not to make such forecasts.

Q. If Putin and his people see that he has reached a certain peak today and then may fall back slightly, surely they may decide that his chances would be better if they held presidential elections today?

Yavlinsky: Anything can happen in Russia. With regards all these versions, I can say that anything can happen in Russia. Anything! Anything can be invented, even things that seem impossible. I develop my policies, proceeding from the premise that anything can happen in Russia. If you asked my close friends how I reacted to comments that I would obtain 12-14% in the elections, they would answer you that I honestly said that we would probably get 5%. Everyone told me "you must be joking"! I said "maybe I am, maybe it's a joke". But I had a feeling that we had to pass the 5% barrier. I even said this at press conferences several times. Everyone thought that I was joking. But I was not. I know what Russia is.

And in September it was proposed that I swear my allegiance to Putin. I said that this was impossible. I am not going to sack anyone in February. Similarly I am not going to swear allegiance to anyone. We shall see what happens. I was told: "Ok, that's it".

Q. What do you think now about the explosions - were they really terrorists'?

Yavlinsky: I do not know and still don't know.

Q: Then you said that it was 90% connected to Chechenian terrorists.

Yavlinsky: Yes I think that this is connected with Chechnya. I don't know who did this. However, no explanations have been forthcoming. But I would like to draw your attention to the following sentence from Putin: "OK, it remains unclear who carried out the explosions, but they invaded Daghestan". That was his statement. We have to find the quotation, maybe you know... This is his own quotation. Time passes, but we still have received no answer about the explosions. There is no trace of Basayev or Khattab, the terrorists or those who carried out the explosions: no information is forthcoming.

Q. If anything can happen, can you imagine a situation where you might work as Prime Minister under President Putin?

Yavlinsky: Anything can happen in Russia, but not with me.

Q. But can you imagine such a development? He had a weak economic programme. Everyone thinks that he will use the programme of the Union of Right-Wing Forces.

Yavlinsky: If he resolves the problem with Chechnya, if observation of human rights becomes one of his prime goals, if he imposes civil controls on the secret services and is satisfied with my economic programme - then I would certainly be ready to work with him.

Q. Could you tell us how you plan to work in the Duma? How far can you go with co-operation?

Yavlinsky: I can co-operate on specific problems.

Q. Do you mean that you will be independent?

Yavlinsky: Of course. We are always ready to co-operate on certain issues. And we will also see what happens to the "Fatherland" and "All Russia" blocs.

Q. They said that they would create a faction and two deputy groups.

Yavlinsky: But they have only 60 people.

Q. A faction and two groups.

Yavlinsky: Ok, let us look at this calmly. You have the Regulations of the State Duma, which they clearly failed to notice, as they are inexperienced here. You can only create deputy groups if you have 35 people. But "Fatherland - All Russia" has only 60 people in total. Therefore, I don't know how they will create a faction and two deputy groups. They want to, but I don't know whom they will ally themselves with to achieve this goal. They won't even be able to create two groups. If they want this so much, they may be told: you have one faction and that is all. If you want a group, it should have at least 35 people.

Moreover the faction is where Primakov is. Because he was elected by the people. It should be not Morozov, but rather the individual elected by the people. If Primakov leaves - and he has been thinking about whether he should go to the Duma or not - there may be no faction at all. They are not thinking this through. It remains unclear how they split up within the bloc. I think that "All Russia" will now merge with "Unity". There will be such a big unity of bears (Ed. the "Unity" bloc is also called the "Bear"). But they both still lack 50% of people to obtain half the Duma.

Q. Do you think that we will see a different balance in the Duma now?

Yavlinsky: Politics in general will be different: it will veer heavily towards a form of national patriotism. Zhirinovsky will have company here, he will be supported by significant forces. I understand, of course, the problems with analysis, especially in the West. When we have a party which nobody understands and knows what title to give it, we call term such a grouping centrist. But this is a big exaggeration. They are not centrists. Incidentally it is very difficult to be centrist. This means a strong programme and a very difficult political line. I can't imagine how Karelin (Ed. the leader of the "Unity", former Olympic wrestling champion ) can be a centrist. Maybe a "central figure"...

Q. Do you have another word? Can you explain what it is?

Yavlinsky: I can explain it in my own way. I simply read newspapers, where they write about "centrists". That is funny! How can they be centrists? There have never been any centrists in Russia. But we are looking a different issue, which I will try to explain.

Russia remains to a large degree a Soviet country. This is the choice of "Unity", the communists and partially the "Union of Right-Wing Forces". This is the Soviet choice of the Soviet people. The parties are formed through Soviet methods, just as Zhirinovsky's party was created in its time.

If the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had existed for another ten years, it would have held virtually the same kind of elections - they would have created the "Bears", "Hares" or something else. The "Bear" with a "human face", such as socialism (Ed. allusion to the Soviet cliche "capitalism with a human face"). And everybody would choose that model. For there is a specific element in Russian culture - I would call it a carnival political culture - this is a culture of pretenders and political carnival.

When people don't want to engage in serious analysis, think and calculate, they are just given something and that is it. But if you are seriously interested in knowing who won these elections, I will tell you - the victorious party is called ORT (Ed. the state television channel). It was the winner. This is the truth. It would be correct to draw attention to the amount of air time accorded to the right-wing forces and "Unity" on this channel. Unfortunately, you don't have any analysis of fairness and honesty. There is a perception in the world that elections should be held on time.

Consequently I have to inform you that ever since 1937 all elections in the Soviet Union have been held on time. The USA may be only the country to have kept the same perfect timing. On the right day and at the right time. And 98% of the population participated in the elections, although this did not mean anything. Because it is not correct in Russia to say that the most important thing is to hold elections. What are these elections? How are they held? Were they fair and honest? Here again we see absolutely incomparable amounts of air time provided on different channels for different parties. Governors notify the Prime Minister by phone three days before the elections on the percentage of the electorate that Unity will garner in their region: "in Saratov Region "Unity" will get 20%". "Next", says Putin. "In Smolensk Region it will get 50%". "Well done! What is your name?" This would lead to resignation in any other country. All the political forces would join forces and dismiss such a Prime Minister. In our country this is how it is done. These are important factors. If we don't want to make the mistakes that we made in the past with economic reforms, this factor should be analysed and discussed.

Q. Your promotional clips represented a glimpse into the past, they lacked power. Will you change anything this time?

Yavlinsky: These were probably our best clips for the four campaigns. But we are ready to admit that they also ... Basically our plans for the electoral campaign were devised before the destruction of the blocks of flats. Certainly, with this backdrop, the power of our promotional clips waned immediately. I would like to put the following question to my fellow democrats all over the world: how would liberal democrats in any other country conduct their campaign, if blocks of flats containing sleeping tenants had been blown up. What clips should be shown? I have no idea. I don't know whether they conduct elections at such times. I don't know what people think about at such moments.

Q. That is why I asked about the possibility of new explosions.

Yavlinsky: You were absolutely right to ask this question

Q. If you don't psychologically prepare yourselves for such events, neither you or anyone else will be able to build their election campaign.

Yavlinsky: I can tell you only one thing. I can prepare myself, but other people cannot prepare themselves and I can't prepare them. I faced such a situation. It happened on a Thursday. I was on tour. My assistant came in early one morning and said, "A block of flats exploded in Moscow." Later it transpired that a shop had been blown up. He did not know that. I asked him: "Were there people inside?" He says that there probably were. He came back in half an hour and said that it was a shop. But I felt during this half hour that there wouldn't be any elections. How will people vote in this case? What they will think? Whom they will vote for and against? Why, what and how - it is impossible to understand anything. For half an hour I lived with a feeling that this destroys everything that happened. Such a psychological shock - people sleeping, a full block of flats. Please understand... I had never heard about such things. I know about explosions at railway stations, markets, but to blow up people, when they are sleeping...

Q. We know this very well in Italy. The term is a strategy of tension. It was conducted coldly for eight years by political groups which had specific political goals. That is why this is not a news for us. This is news for Russia, but not for Italy.

Yavlinsky: Please forgive me, but this is also not new for us. We experienced this situation from approximately 1929 to1953. This is eight years for you and almost 30 years for us - the constant reproduction of an extraordinary situation. Looking for spies and saboteurs and then war, and then looking for enemies. Recently Russia celebrated the 120th anniversary of this Comrade (Ed. Stalin).

Q. You have said that we will witness a national-patriotic mood within the Duma. Do you expect to see other trends emerging in the new Duma? For example, of federal suicide? Now governors are directly elected in the Duma. They are strong. They will demand more autonomy, and the centre - the executive authorities, Yeltsin and Putin - will be inclined to afford them such power. Last year one of the criminal governors, Kirsan Ilumzhinov (Ed. the President of Kalmykiya) said that he was about to quit Russia. There are other regional heads like this within "Unity". Do you think that their inclinations will be more patriotic or autonomy-prone.

Yavlinsky: I think they will be more patriotic - national-patriots. Because their dependence on Putin in Moscow will be incomparable with their dependence on Ilumzhinov, whom they have already abandoned forever. This is Russia.

Q. You said that neither the former nor the latter have enough seats to reach 50%. Yabloko will become a welcome companion here. Consequently you are likely to receive tempting offers. Are there any circumstances where you would agree to co-operate with some of these parties?

Yavlinsky: Yes, on specific issues.

Q. Could you tell provide more detail, please.

Yavlinsky: Certainly. We will submit a draft law on tax cuts. Anybody who supports this law will be considered our allies. We plan to introduce a real Land Code, which will designate land as private property. Anybody backing this Code will be considered our allies. We would like to introduce real anti-monopoly legislation. Similarly all backers will become our allies.

Q. What are the chances for land reform?

Yavlinsky: In this sense I don't know how Putin will react.

Q. Does he say anything on this issue?

Yavlinsky: No, nothing. I have only mentioned a few issues, but I could continue. If such problems are resolved, then we will definitely support these moves and will seek some compromises, so that they are adopted by the Duma. If they submit anything of this kind, we will support such steps. Why not? We will propose Stepashin as Chairman of the State Duma. If we get support here, then we may also provide support on other issues. We are the oldest (sorry, you can't say this without a smile in Russia, but that is the truth) parliamentary party in Russia. We are the oldest, together with the communists. No other party is in its third term in the Duma. The communists have been here for over 100 years, but that's another story.

Q. Even though Putin does not say anything and you are not his press secretary, what do you think about him? Would you be concerned, if he suddenly became president? He is very careful, but nevertheless you must have a clear opinion about this man.

Yavlinsky: I haven't had enough time to develop a clear opinion. I would like to see at least if his words correspond with his deeds.

Q. He uses different words.

Yavlinsky: Secondly, I would like him to use the same words, which lie within the framework of a certain direction. I have told you which direction and have explained where I am ready to co-operate with him. I think that it is very important for Russia today to create the institutions of a civil society. If he spends all his efforts creating an independent court in Russia, we could say that this is absolute progress. If he introduced changes to the Constitution that sought to create a situation where presidential power is not unlimited but balanced, this must be supported. If he really took a decision on the key economic issues - on repayment of debts, a transparent budget, protection of property rights and the termination of property transfers through tenders and investment auctions, I would say that this is absolutely right. However, he has not done such things. We will wait and see.

Q. Let me put this question slightly differently. How likely is it that he will do such things?

Yavlinsky: Not very likely. What do you think?

Q. Yesterday I expressed my concerns about Putin.

Yavlinsky: And I have said the same things, haven't I? Simply I would like our Prime Minister to go in the right direction, instead of closing the door in his face, so that tomorrow he reads articles in your newspapers that Yavlinsky did this or that. It is important for me to continue a dialogue with him - a firm dialogue, but one that leads in a direction that is important to me. If he refuses all this, then we will be looking at a different issue. I believe that real steps are important rather than mere pretence. Putin is really a new man. However, he exerts a large influence now and has a real opportunity. He can do virtually anything. He can create an independent court, for example, or he could tackle Gazprom's problems.

Q. If he wants.

Yavlinsky: Yes, if he wants to. His predecessors could not do this.

Q. And he will not be able to.

Yavlinsky: First of all, he should have such intentions. And then we shall see whether he can do this or not. But before his appearance, even if someone wanted to do something, it was useless, as noone wielded the power held by Putin - neither Chernomyrdin, as he was a part of the system, Kiryenko who was simply a nobody or Primakov.

Q. Aren't you exaggerating Putin's possibilities? You said that ORT won the elections. I would say that it was BAB - Boris Abramovich Berezovsky. Yesterday he called a press conference and explained to us all that he
personally won the elections together with the best journalist in the world Mr. Doryenko (Ed. infamous journalist on the ORT channel).

Yavlinsky: If they had worked at Ren-TV channel (Ed. a minor TV channel), it is unlikely that they would have won the elections. But he does not even hide the fact that this story is Berezovsky's project. He said that the Bear" would appear and the "Bear" exists. No one argues.

Q. Surely it is an exaggeration to claim the ORT channel won the elections? Do you think that the electorate is that stupid? He did not win in 1991, when ORT, the "Ostankino" channel at the time, opposed Yeltsin. There is also the NTV channel, in particular the debates. I know that ratings in large cities were quite good. And I am not talking about the local channels here. It is incorrect to say that it involved Soviet-type propaganda (though by nature it was), but it was not in terms of impact.

Yavlinsky: I can't agree with you. If you look at the scope of ORT's broadcasting and compare it with that of NTV, you'll see that they are incomparable. They differ significantly. If you had toured Russia's regions with me, you would have been surprised to see that NTV in the regions is almost the same as RenTV in Moscow. It is more of a channel for enthusiasts, which nobody watches. It exerts no influence at all. This is only television for Moscow Region. They try, they do a lot, but they are broadcast through small private stations, at another time, often at night.

Moreover, Doryenko really pulled off a brilliant coup. He made his programme in the form and at the time of the news programme, which was believed to provide the absolute truth by the Soviet people for 50 years. He made his programme as a Soviet news programme. Not like Kiselyov (Ed. popular journalist of the NTV channel) with his "Vox Populi". Whom did he made it for? Doryenko made his "Vremya" programme at 9 p.m. on Sunday (Ed. the official news programme was shown at this time in Soviet times) - while all the other programmes (Ed. owing to broadcasting time differences and channel coverage) simply do not reach other regions. In the news we saw Shoigu (Ed. the Minister of Extraordinary Situations, and number one on the "Unity" list) who said: "Sorry I could not come and see you in the Far East, I am busy here, we are wiping out all the fucking bandits), I have so much work. I cannot come and visit you, please forgive me. And this is also time. In this sense the efficacy of this channel is huge. It reaches every house.

Q. But he was selling the goods that the population wanted to buy.

Yavlinsky: That is also true. I am explaining who the main winner is, I am not claiming that they did this without the population's participation. The population was also involved. As I have already told you, this is a Soviet country. They were offered goods of such quality. By the way, if, for example, Bush Junior had been promoted with the same persistence, he would have clearly been elected to the Duma as well. Or they would have said that Clinton had to be in the Duma, because his term was about to expire and the poor guy had nowhere to go. He would have gone somewhere like Kabardino-Balkaria, like Berezovsky to Karachayevo-Cherkessia, and would have been elected there. Another choice could have been Aguino-Buryat District. Do you think people that would not have voted for him? Yes, they would.

Q. According to opinion polls, the people were ready to take such steps.

Yavlinsky: What steps? Like Kobzon (Ed. popular singer), who got 90%?

Q. To Putin.

Yavlinsky: Certainly! All the recent years led Russia in that direction. Five years ago everyone was afraid that Russia was veering towards national-populism. Now this time has come. The time of national-populism. This is really true.

Q. What will change in Russia's economy in the next millennium?

Yavlinsky: I don't have grounds to assume that there will be any significant changes. I can only confirm the current forecasts - the potential provided by the additional opportunity of devaluation will be completely exhausted by the middle of next year. And then Russia will face significant economic difficulties. In addition, as the debt issue has still not been solved, moreover in a state of war, we may face high inflation. And this will be a serious situation.

Q. What does the war mean for the budget?

Yavlinsky: The budget recorded an operating surplus. Consequently there is money for the war. But the budget for 2000 should be different. Large-scale military actions will require considerable additional expenditure: it remains unclear how they will be covered. By the way, it is also unclear today whether the military are being paid their wages. We will face a problem, if they are not being paid.

Q. How have the additional proceeds from the rise in oil prices on international markets been used?

Yavlinsky: I don't have precise information. It was a question that I asked Vladimir Putin. We discussed the rise in customs duties. He said that part of the duties had already been raised, which they wanted to use. However, I don't know how long the OPEC countries will tolerate this price rise. I told him in October that we had to urgently make use of these funds, as I think that after January the OPEC countries will everything within their to make sure that they never see such prices again, as they are being ruined by them.

Q. The country lives in a strange unique situation. There is a huge structure controlled by nobody apart from the President. This is the Administration Department. Have you ever proposed changing the law? Many people in the West naively believe that you have a democracy and division of power here. But the Administration Department is the largest enterprise in Russia. Nobody raises any issues about its control.

Yavlinsky: Whose Administration Department is this?

Q. The President's.

Yavlinsky: There you are. He controls it.

Q. But could Yabloko propose a legislative initiative here?

Yavlinsky: Yabloko did the following: we drafted a new budget in a completely different manner (Ed. Yabloko's proposals for the draft budget 2000, also known as the alternative budget). All the present budgets have an article "expenditure on state management". Yabloko put this in several definite articles. We submitted an appendix that included 1.400 articles. 1.400 articles! We have denoted everything there: expenditure on paper and pencils for the President of the RF, expenditure on toiletry for the President of the RF, expenditure on business trips for the deputy chairmen of the Duma, expenditure on soap, toilet paper, pencils and pens. That is how we approached this issue. In addition it should be decided where the profits from such a large enterprise go, etc. When I visited one city, people asked me why Yeltsin had so many houses, residences and cars? I answered, "Because Yeltsin fought against privileges. And won." (Laughter).
People liked it: he fought, won and all this now belongs to him

Q. You don't have 35 people to create a faction.

Yavlinsky: We don't think that this is important. Parties elected by the people can even have 10 seats. When independent deputies want to unite, they need 35 people to obtain the status of a group. But this norm does not apply to individuals elected under federal lists. If someone had 5%, he would have a faction of 12 people. My electorate brought me here, this is my source of power.

Q. Which Duma committees will your faction head?

Yavlinsky: It is difficult for such a "big" faction as we are today to speak about committees. We would like to have our Speaker. If we aren't given the post of Speaker, we would like to have the post of a Deputy Speaker. We would like to have one committee and other posts as deputy chairmen of the key committees. We shall certainly have a deputy head of the budget committee.

Q. Who might this be?

Yavlinsky: Most likely, Igor Artemyev. We will definitely have a deputy head of the Committee for Legislation, most likely, Elena Mizulina. We will definitely have a deputy head for the Defence Committee, Alexei Arbatov. We will definitely have a deputy head of the Committee for Local Government Issues, Sergei Mitrokhin. This is for sure.

Q. Have you already reached an agreement on Stepashin as Speaker?

Yavlinsky: He was proposed by Sergei Kiryenko. Shoigu also proposed him, by the way. He said that it should be decided according to the UN principle: Chairman of the Duma representing a small faction. Let it be. We have been repeating this for a long time, that this would be right.

Q. Could you provide better arguments against the war in Chechnya, so that your position looked more consistent for the population? There is evidence that does not appear in the Russian mass media.

Yavlinsky: You know, it is even harder for deputies to get there than reporters. Deputies can go only as far as the location of the federal forces. I am going to speak about this on the "Itogi" programme on Sunday .

Q. They are hunting for Maria Eismont (Ed. reporter from the Reiter agency in Chechnya). She is now in Nazran.

Yavlinsky: "Svoboda" ("Freedom") also has Babitski in Chechnya. It is possible to speak with someone there. I cannot produce evidence, as I am not an investigator or public prosecutor. I must do my business. Russia has its specifics - a politician should engage only in politics. As soon as he begins performing other functions - going here and there with a suitcase full of compromising material or becoming a seeker after the truth - everything immediately becomes confused. Unfortunately, I don't have special mechanisms here. And then you should understand that when a politician produces such proof... this means that they are produced by a politician... They are immediately turned into an accusation, that this had been done for the sake of sheer populism. "Memorial" (Ed. a well-known society for human rights protection) should engage in this. A politician should take objective evidence and build his policy on this basis. If I could procure this evidence, I would get it, simply because it must be obtained. But I don't have additional possibilities here. And I can't believe in the data from the Chechens. But I can't believe our military either.

Q. If we turn to political regulation of the conflict: Russia does not want to see there political intermediaries such as the OSCE (Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe).

Yavlinsky: But I do. And I don't object here. I think that it would be better for Russia, if international intermediaries took part. Russia has a lot to talk with them about here. There is a problem with terrorists, a serious problem. It hasn't suddenly materialised: there are terrorists in Chechnya. There are large groups of terrorists in Kirgizia and Tadjikistan as well and not only in Chechnya. This is a serious matter and poses a serious threat. If this is an anti-terrorist operation ,this is a serious and important task - to bring the terrorists to court or eliminate them. Their attack on Daghestan was not incidental: they have a plan, including a desire to reach the Caspian Sea and create a vakhabits' state there.


ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals