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EDITORIAL:  Is It Treason To Question War Aims?
Moscow Times,
November 16, 1999

"The Russian army is reviving in Chechnya, faith in the army is growing, and a politician who does not think so cannot be regarded as a Russian politician. In this case, there is only one definition - a traitor. And [Grigory] Yavlinsky's attempts to justify himself, to say that he was misinterpreted, do not change matters." 

The above quote was not from the LDPR's Vladimir Zhirinovsky and not from Russian National Unity leader Alexander Barkashov. 

No, it was from Russia's best-known "liberal": Anatoly Chubais. 

Yavlinsky's criticism of the war in Chechnya could not have been more careful or loyal. He has expressed "complete support" for the government's war effort, and for the stated aims of stamping out terrorism, and has applauded Russian military successes. 

Within that context, he framed his call last week for negotiations with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Yavlinsky argued that the military has restored Russian influence in the Caucasus, and can in confidence hand the process to political negotiators. 

Yavlinsky also called for an immediate 30-day bombing moratorium, to move ordinary people out of the war zone. This is Yavlinsky's recognition - somewhat limp and belated compared to that of, say, Yelena Bonner - that civilians have been getting killed or uprooted at a rate that has alarmed governments around the world. 

Yavlinsky also puts forward the chilling suggestion that after those 30 days, if Maskhadov has not met Yabloko's harsh negotiating conditions, the military can do as it pleases in Chechnya - apparently on the understanding that anyone left is by definition a combatant, as all "real" civilians will have fled during the cease fire. 

This is the truly ugly aspect of Yavlinsky's plan. Many of those in Chechnya are trapped there by circumstance - they are elderly, or ill, or mentally disabled, or simply stuck in poverty. If Yavlinsky's argument provides a carte blanche for razing the republic, their fate will be on his head. 

Yet even so, is Yavlinsky a traitor? Yavlinsky agrees with the war aims 100 percent, he praises the successes - and then he argues now is the time for new tactics - and for this, according to Chubais, we can no longer even consider Yavlinsky "a Russian politician," because he "does not think ... the Russian army is reviving in Chechnya." 

Chubais is more than welcome to scorn Yavlinsky's peace plan. But instead of challenging Yavlinsky's proposal, he is challenging his right to make a proposal at all. Chubais may call himself a liberal - but in labeling Yavlinsky an enemy of the people he is behaving more like a Stalinist.


ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals