Svanidzye: Today we have invited the leader of the
Yabloko faction Grigory Yavlinsky. My first question concerns
you personally, Grigory Alexeyevich, as it also concerns
the election struggle, in which you are actively participating.
As a politician, how do you assess the situation that
has developed from Evgeni Primakov's answer to Boris Yeltsin?
Boris Yeltsin invited Evgeni Primakov to a meeting, but
Primakov said that he did not want to go. Your comments,
Yavlinsky: You have already answered that question. Next
day he agreed to meet and it is right that he agreed.
I can understand Primakov's emotions in this situation
with the President and people who work with the President,
but a prominent politician must meet with the President.
If he is critical or disagrees with the President, he
must say so directly. He can say it even on television,
but he must say it directly, to the President's face.
In addition, Primakov worked for a long time with the
President: he was head of the secret service and also
minister for foreign affairs and prime minister. Only
four months have passed since his dismissal. Therefore
I think that all politicians must negotiate with each
Svanidzye: Do you think that if a politician says:
"No, I don't see anything interesting in meeting the President"
or "I am dissatisfied with the people around the President.
So I am not going to meet the President". Is this not
potentially a good answer?
Yavlinsky: I think that this would be wrong in the present
circumstances, with due account of the relations between
Boris Yeltsin and Evgeni Primakov. In my opinion, this
is incorrect. In general politicians must speak to each
other, this is the crux of the issue. If we say that there
should be negotiations in Chechnya, there should be negotiations
between Boris Yeltsin and Evgeni Primakov.
Svanidzye: Maybe this only applies to the politicians
who stick to certain rules of the game. You won't negotiate
with Makashov (Ed. former army general, an extreme nationalist),
Yavlinsky: No. But I don't see him as a politician.
Svanidzye: Ok, let us turn to another topic. Another
prominent politician was going to come to Moscow and make
a speech in the State Duma on the invitation of the Duma,
but he postponed his visit until next Wednesday. I am
referring to the President of Byelorussia Alexander Lukashenko.
What is your assessment now? What do the State Duma and
you yourself personally expect from Lukashenko, in particular
after the recent events in Minsk?
Yavlinsky: On July 20 1999 the presidential term of Lukashenko
expired. Since July 20 1999 he has merely been Alexander
Lukashenko who remains unconstitutionally in power. The
State Duma, and here I mean its left wing, simply does
not understand the precedent that it is creating here
for us in Russia. It provides an opportunity, in a certain
political situation, to say to the left: "You invited
a president whose term has expired to speak in the State
Duma. Why should you demonstrate your dissatisfaction
now when President Yeltsin has, by dint of some tricks,
decided to prolong his term for another 12 or 18 months"?
Svanidzye: Do you suspect that he has decided to stay
for another 18 months?
Yavlinsky: We are not discussing this now. Today we are
discussing another issue. You are asking me what the State
Duma thinks about this. I am telling you what the State
Duma does not think about. The Duma does not understand
what it is doing. It elevates Lukashenko's status and
puts him at a state level, but it should not do this.
In addition, the Duma invites him here to clear up his
relationships with the opposition: the opposition in his
Svanidzye: Through Russia's Duma.
Yavlinsky: Through Russia's Duma. We have once again
expressed our firm protest and we will do so again. We
will find a way to declare our disagreement. In general
we oppose a situation where an individual, whose presidential
term has expired, comes to Moscow, the State Duma of the
Russian Federation and calls himself the President of
Byelorussia, settles accounts with his own opposition.
This is absolutely wrong. That is why we think that we
should not move further along in that direction.
Svanidzye: Nevertheless the decision of the State
Duma to invite Lukashenko or not does not depend solely
on you: and the decision to invite him has already been
adopted. Lukashenko, unless he changes his mind which
is unlikely, will make a speech in the State Duma. Please,
tell us what your faction - and you personally as leader
of the faction - will do in this case. Let us imagine
that Lukashenko is on the tribune: what will you ask,
what you will say?
Yavlinsky: If the speech focuses simply on the events
in Byelorussia, we will not participate at all.
Svanidzye: Does this mean that you will not come to
Yavlinsky: We will not participate in such a meeting.
We have already passed a joint decision by the faction
on the previous speech. If this issue is related to the
discussion of relations between Russia and Byelorussia
and takes place after the meeting between Lukashenko and
Yeltsin, then we will be given the right to express our
opinion. We will not have to simply sit and listen to
Lukashenko. We will be able to explain our position and
we will say the following. First of all, as long as president
Lukashenko is a self-proclaimed president and is not elected
as such, we should not sign any agreements with him. We
cannot sign any agreements with a man whose term has expired.
In addition, there is no legitimate parliament. Therefore
we think that elections should be held in Byelorussia.
In this sense we think that all the opposition to Lukashenko
are right on this issue. Except for the fact that we oppose
the use of force. We think that negotiations between Lukashenko
and the opposition are necessary, so that elections can
be held as soon as possible. We can only speak about all
the state unions and inter-state unions after the elections.
As nothing was done prior to July 20, now there is nobody
for us to speak to: there is no elected president in Byelorussia
right now. They have a man who is usurping this status
through an illegal referendum. However, the use of force
Negotiations between Lukashenko and the opposition are
required to designate a date for the elections and then
hold the elections. Only then can we speak about relations
between Russia and Byelorussia. We would like to say on
this second issue that we favour a union between Russia
and Byelorussia, based on the European model, where each
country preserves its sovereignty in full; we advocate
a situation where the democracy we have in Russia (irrespective
of the level of democracy we have in Russia now) will
be transferred to Byelorussia, and not vice-versa, with
the totalitarism in Byelorussia penetrating Russia.
Svanidzye: Your position here is clear: we can agree
or disagree with it legally, but that is life. Public
opinion polls among the citizens of Belarus, and here
I am referring to objective polls, would appear to demonstrate
that most of the population are dissatisfied with their
lives, but who isn't? But they are ready to elect Lukashenko
once again: they trust him, And here their position clashes
with your viewpoint. You claim that he is an illegitimate
president, while Byelorussian citizens think that he is
legitimate. What will you do?
Yavlinsky: You said something interesting. Polls are
polls, but I am interested in the elections. And this
state is very close to me, as people live there who really
are very close to me in terms of their history and culture.
As I am not indifferent to their fate and am interested
in the elections there, I am interested in formal elections.
I need to see an elected parliament and an elected president
Svanidzye: Do you mean that, until new legitimate
elections take place there, irrespective of whom they
elect - whether it is Lukashenko once again or someone
else - you will consider him an illegitimate figure and
won't talk to him about serious matters?
Yavlinsky: That is absolutely correct. Everyone must
act in this way, as whatever he signs today may simply
be rejected tomorrow on the premise that the document
was signed by a president who did not face elections.
Once again, I insist that the holding of elections should
be the main task of the Byelorussian opposition. They
should approach the issue of elections through negotiations
with Lukashenko and make him hold elections. What is he
afraid of here?
Svanidzye: How they can make him do it, if all the
force, both political and physical, is on his side?
Yavlinsky: At least they should not do it by throwing
stones and fighting each other. There must be negotiations.
Pressure on Lukashenko by the European Union and all his
neighbours is important. Incidentally, if Russia, at state
level, the level of the President of the Russian Federation,
assumed a clear position on this issue and stopped all
this political gambling, he would have no choice.
Svanidzye: But here they are gambling with Byelorussia
rather than with Lukashenko. Presidents come and go, but
Yavlinsky: We should not hurt the people who live in
Byelorussia. But when they advocate the country's annexation
or something similar, we firmly oppose such moves. We
have stressed on a number of occasions that Byelorussians
are a fraternal nation for us. You should not deprive
your brother of his passport: you should let him retain
his independence. If you are his brother, you should not
deprive him of a passport, citizenship and independence:
you can't do this. We must do something else. We have
certain proposals to make on this matter. I have a draft
treaty on economic union with Byelorussia on my table
Svanidzye: Only please don't read it to us now.
Yavlinsky: I am not going to do that. However, this draft
was sent to Lukashenko and we received an answer. It stated
that he did not intend to do anything of the kind. Therefore,
President Lukashenko is the main obstacle impeding the
creation of sensible and harmless unions and treaties
for Russia, which are moreover useful for Russia and the
people in Byelorussia.