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Yavlinskiy Interviewed on Russian Situation
Ekho Moskvy Radiostation,
Studio interview with Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, Yabloko faction leader, by Aleksey Venediktov -- live
September 8, 1998

[Venediktov] Grigoriy Alekseyevich, the country is virtually paralysed and popular debates include whether we should first be tackling political tasks or governmental tasks, whether we should be establishing an effective government, and whether the officials who are now acting should start managing the situation.  What is your view?

[Yavlinskiy] First of all, I want to say that we should not be making any large pronouncements about a paralysis, and so on. [passage omitted: coments on wage arrears]

As for action, I have believed, as I believe now, that the Acting Prime Minister should be sitting in the Kremlin now and taking decisions every minute.  He does not need anything else, no additional or special powers.  All these issues could be tackled in the future.  What is needed today is simply to take steps:  Step number one, two, and three.  Steps should have been taken.  This should have been done over the past three weeks.  For example, the decision on the investors -- when we refused to pay them off -- should have been re-examined.  The most important thing is that they needed to tackle the issue of people's savings, but not in the manner they have done -- by saying that the savings would stay -- but the next day when the savings were transferred to the savings bank and half of them were gone.  They should have tackled the question of compensation and introduced an emergency budget.  They should have shown the will to do something instead of lurching from one faction leader to another and holding absolutely crazy and pointless meetings and voting in an attempt to persuade them to do something.

Indeed, the country needs a government and a prime minister.  A scheme for resolving this issue has been suggested.  It could be resolved literally at one go and in one day, as soon as the President submits such a decision.  Today's problem is that the President is not tackling this issue.

[Venediktov] Let us talk about the President then.  So you think he is the main obstacle to settling the government crisis?

[Yavlinskiy] We have a totally authoritarian constitution at the moment -- in other words, a constitution under which all rights and all powers are concentrated in the President.  If he does not focus on certain issues, they remain completely unaddressed.  This decision to put Chernomyrdin forward, it was obvious that this was incorrect because he would not be approved.  Without getting into what this was all thought up for, once it became clear that it would not work, he needed quickly to take other decisions that would not stop him being President, but in the current situation he has simply paralysed the entire political and economic process.  That is a real problem.

[Venediktov] [passage omitted: preamble to next question] What is your attitude to the impeachment procedure and to the accusations that your faction are putting forward?  Do you not you feel that, right now, the State Duma will just use the impeachment not as an impeachment but to block the dissolution of the Duma?

[Yavlinskiy] I can only talk about our position on part of the impeachment.  We think that of all the issues under discussion as part of the impeachment, only one is really serious, and that is the one connected with the war in Chechnya.  [passage omitted: Chechnya cost thousands of lives, and must not be repeated]

If this whole issue will be examined and put forward in a juridically correct manner, this will be a very good reason for us to support an impeachment if the question arises.  We will not agree to any illegitimate uses for the impeachment -- as self-defense or out of spite -- because, despite the crisis and the difficult situation, specific juridical procedures cannot be used as combat weapons.  [passage omitted: reiterates point]

[Venediktov] So if it comes up, Yabloko will vote for charges being pressed over Chechnya?

[Yavlinskiy] I think so.  [passage omitted: a power vacuum is no worse than the counterproductive government decisions that were being made earlier, and it is vital to observe the constitution]

[Venediktov] Grigoriy Alekseyevich, under the constitution, the President has the right to dissolve the Duma if the prime minister - designate is rejected for a third time.  Is your faction, your movement, ready for elections under these crisis conditions?  Does it think it will be possible to hold parliamentary elections?  It is possible under the constitution.

[Yavlinskiy] We cannot see any good coming from the dissolution of the Duma, but if elections are called we will definitely take part in them.  We are ready for elections, because we assumed a long time ago that events could lead to this. But I have to call on those who today are acting as the government -- and by the way it is acting in its full complement -- because today we need to think about how to defend the majority of the population from uncontrollable price rises.  We need immediately to lower excise duty rates on essentials, immediately to lower tax rates for enterprises trading in domestic goods.  We need to collect a critical amount in foreign currency in order to buy up and import medical and essential goods, because the lives of very many people are simply depending on this.  Over the past six years the proportion of imports has become very important.  You need to remember that shipments that might seem small in size, if they are halted, can bring production at huge enterprises to a standstill, and massive unemployment will follow.  Somebody needs to deal with these problems.

[Venediktov] But the elections...

[Yavlinskiy, interrupting] If Chernomyrdin went on television every evening and simply said what he had done during the day, what decisions he had made, I think that would be a lot more useful than going back and forth among politicians trying to persuade them of something.  [passage omitted: Yavlinskiy reiterates point; calls for emergency budget to include these points and address the human aspect of reforms; break for news]

[Venediktov] Grigoriy Alekseyevich, we just heard on the news that both speakers of the Federal Assembly -- Seleznev, of the Communists, and Stroyev, who once belonged to Russia is Our Home, have supported the candidate you proposed: Foreign Minister Yevgeniy Primakov.  [passage omitted: there are many potential candidates] Why did you propose Primakov for prime minister?

[Yavlinskiy]  [words indistinct] Yevgeniy Maksimovich Primakov has a few advantages at the moment.  His political authority is sufficiently high to influence the power-wielding structures, to be able to pass through the State Duma on the first attempt.  On the other hand, he is not a member of any party, not tied to any political forces.  He is well-known and has authority overseas, and one very important factor at the moment is that he does not wish to take part in presidential elections, meaning he will be open and relaxed about political events, and will not be thinking about the egotistical interests of a president but about how to sort things out and realistically to stabilize the economy and the country. [passage omitted: Primakov is also preferable because he is not a businessman and will not therefore be unpopular with the public] 

Primakov will be a political prime minister and, of course, he will have a first deputy to be responsible for the economy, who will deal with parliament on this issue.

[Venediktov] Do you mean yourself?

[Yavlinskiy] No, I do not mean myself, I can tell you that for certain.  We have not had any talks with Primakov and we have not even discussed any decisions on filling this position with him.  It is just that if we are to have any prospects today, to have even the slightest political stability, we need to take this opportunity, however slight -- meaning we do not have many people of the requisite calibre, with unaligned political authority and, at the same time, acceptable as a presidential nominee.  He can be supported and not removed every two months, and allowed to talk both with the whole world and with the whole country.  This is a rare event: we have this person, and we need to take the opportunity. [passage omitted: neutral figure as prime minister is in the interests of all parties; Primakov is unlikely to confirm or deny anything about his candidacy until it has been declared by Yeltsin; people need to be reassured that the government will now act responsibly; Yeltsin's time has passed but nobody can force him to go]

It is difficult to work as prime minister, or as anybody, when you can be fired and you will find out about it first from Ekho Moskvy.  Why do you think all politicians like to listen to Ekho Moskvy?  Because all politicians know that that is where they will first find out that they have been sacked.

[Venediktov]  [passage omitted: preamble to next question]  What do you think are the chances of mass disorder that will turn the political situation into reminiscent of 1993?

[Yavlinskiy] I would not recommend anyone to make that sort of prediction in Russia.  And predictions of that kind can only be made by people a long way away, who have never seen anything of the sort themselves, and do not really understand how these things can end up.  I hope people will understand that actions of this kind will not solve a single problem.  They will make everything worse, they can take it further, to the very brink, but after any demonstrations there will inevitably be talks, decisions, agreement of positions -- in other words, any war ends in negotiations, and people in Russia have enough experience to know that it is better to clear this abyss in a single step, or to begin negotiations to settle the issue right away.  These settlements are under way, and people can see how various political forces are attempting to defend their positions. Today the President is thinking about what other candidates for prime minister to put forward.  That shows that it is working.  But simple provocative actions of this kind will lead to very serious and perhaps even irreversible consequences for a lot of people.  I really do not recommend going down that road.

ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals