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Interview of Grigory Yavlinsky for the "Zerkalo" (Mirror) TV Programme
RTR channel, Interviewer -Nikolai Svanidzye
November 14, 1999

Svanidzye: Good evening.

Yavlinsky: Good evening.

Svanidzye: I am holding in my hands your declaration on Chechnya. It is signed by you and it is authentic. The following are your six conditions for Alsan Maskhadov. Frankly speaking I have no questions here. They are correct: liberation of all hostages; establishment of the grounds for a civil and law-governed state: the extradition of terrorists, implementation of a wide range of measures to disarm armed formations, which are not under the state's control; elimination of military and repressive bodies; refusal by Chechnya to admit individuals accused of international terrorism. I have no questions here so far. Similarly I have no questions on the final part of your declaration, where you talk about the seriousness of the present situation in Chechnya related to winter conditions, etc.

I would like to ask the following questions. You have written about the introduction of a state of emergency on the territories of Stavropol Region, Daghestan and other territories bordering Chechnya, before starting negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov. This is, incidentally, a separate issue. There were always claims to Yeltsin that he wanted to introduce a state of emergency and cancel the elections. Let it pass. But the second point: stop mass-scale bombings of the Chechen Republic and suspend a wide-ranging ground military attack. Then comes the third item - negotiations. How should we understand this concept, Grigory Alexeevich? Do you propose first to stop our troops, stop bombings, call a truce and only then start negotiations with Maskhadov? Have I understood you correctly?

Yavlinsky: The idea of a truce is your invention.

Svanidzye: But this is the word.

Yavlinsky: Your word. In reality the following is meant: everything that our troops have been doing must continue and to the same extent. Basically mass-scale bombings, i.e. when everything is bombed, and a wide-ranging ground assault in the mountains, is an issue that should be considered after we have resolved certain political issues. I admit here that it may happen in this way and that this is all that is required.

But first we should ask Maskhadov directly and firmly if he assumes responsibility for further developments. By the way, recent developments in Chechnya confirmed the correctness of the position covered in the declaration.

In Moscow the First Deputy of the Head of the General Headquarters General Manilov, obviously a respected Russian officer, announced that Maskhadov was the legitimate President of Chechnya. In Chechnya our troops entered Gudermes, without firing a single gunshot and without sustaining a single casualty, on the basis of negotiations with the same armed people, who had been opposing our troops. This confirms the correctness of our stance and the need to immediately start moving in this direction.

Svanidzye: You have said that the truce is my word. Wait a second. Stopping the bombing and suspending a ground attack - how can this be called anything other than a truce?

Yavlinsky: Let me state once again. I am speaking about carpet mass-scale bombings and a wide-ranging military operation involving the whole front. In this sense I share the fear of our side over the losses that this may entail. I admit that things may develop in such a way that this will become inevitable. But first I would like to declare the following: military means may bring victory. But they cannot secure peace. Securing an understanding of the population of Chechnya is an inherent part of our interests in achieving victory over the enemy and a total and absolute victory over the terrorists and bandits.

The people should understand that we are not fighting them: we are not fighting the people, we are fighting terrorists and bandits. In this sense our military demonstrated exceptional political sense when they resolved problems, as in Gudermes, when they correctly defined the negotiations issue, in spite of all the claims we have from this man. In 1996-1999 he demonstrated his total inability to govern the country.

Svanidzye: Are you speaking about Maskhadov?

Yavlinsky: Certainly. But these talks are not with Maskhadov. These are talks with the population of one of the Russian Federation's subjects. These talks should last for several days - not weeks or months, but several days, - openly, publicly in front of the whole country and the whole world. Maskhadov should provide us all with answers on all the questions that you have just formulated here. In addition, you should bear in mind that Maskhadov controls over a third of all the terrorists. Only a third, but the best trained and best armed people. If Maskhadov is asked these questions by the head of the Government of Russia and says that he agrees with these tasks, then these people will at least maintain their neutrality. And the experience of Gudermes will be expanded.

Svanidzye: Grigory Alexeevich, it is difficult to argue with what you say. These are general tasks and general goals, and everyone agrees with them. As always, the devil is in the detail. And the details are as follows. They are based on your declaration that you propose, or rather propose that Vladimir Putin assumes the following position and tells Maskhadov: "Maskhadov, we will stop the bombings for a while, as well as the wide-ranging ground operations. We propose that you do the following". Then the six aforementioned terms are mentioned: as you yourself know, he won't be able to implement them. He won't be able to implement them, even if he wanted to, and there are doubts about the last point as well. "But if you can't or don't want to, then we give you after that - and this is the fourth point of your declaration - 30 days, so that the refugees can leave the Chechen Republic."

This means we must first stop and give them time to disperse, regroup and prepare. Then we ask him the questions. He may begin dragging out the business, saying that this can't be solved immediately - this will give him more time to disperse, regroup and prepare. And, finally, we give them another 30 days so that they can fully recover.

Yavlinsky: Again what you've said is harmful and dangerous. The matter is quite different.

Svanidzye: It is written like this...

Yavlinsky: It is not written like this. The matter is different. What I propose doesn't involve any change to the action that our army has done so far - this is my declaration and I know what I wrote there - we should continue all these operations. All we need to do is to make sure that the army implements and continue its operations while preserving soldiers' lives. And here Maskhadov must answer the questions that I told you about. I won't repeat them again. Why Maskhadov? I gave you the most authoritative opinion...

Svanidzye: And what do you expect his answer will be?

Yavlinsky: He can provide different answers. He may say "no". And then we must declare that we no longer consider this regime legitimate and that it only rewards the bandit formations. Then we denounce all the agreements with Chechnya that were signed up to our President's level. And then we directly address the people, ignoring Maskhadov. Our political goals - to attract the population of the Northern Caucasus to our side - are preserved in this case. Then we conduct the operation independently.

Svanidzye: After 30 days?

Yavlinsky: The whole operation continues for 30 days. But during these 30 days the civilians who do not want to support the bandits and terrorists will leave Chechnya through a corridor. That is what the declaration says. But I would like to tell you the following: over the past few weeks we have witnessed a development which is in my opinion inadmissible for our politics. My opponents Yuri Luzhkov and Evgeni Primakov were accused of co-operating with the West, in a bid to weaken Russia. I think that this political show targeted at them and - while I disagree with them on many points and am their rival - accusations to the effect that they are colluding with the West and want to weaken Russia are, I believe, very poor politics. This resembles a "witch-hunt". It is absolutely inappropriate at present.

Svanidzye: As far as I can understand, this is your position. But we have been discussing another topic. You called your declaration an ultimatum for Maskhadov.

Yavlinsky: Yes, that is true.

Svanidzye: Excuse me, but surely you realise that an ultimatum looks as follows: when you hold someone by the neck, squeeze it and then add: "Now, friend, you will do this and that thing or, sorry, goodbye". You propose to take your hands off this throat, step a few steps back and say: "We are giving you time, 30 days, even more, as I will first of all dictate the terms to you and you must reflect and these 30 days will begin, only if you refuse. And if you refuse, then I shall grab you by the throat again."

Yavlinsky: Nikolai Karlovich, what you've just described is not an ultimatum and is totally unrelated to politics. What you've just said is simply bandit talk between two bandits in a doorway.

Svanidzye: But it is war.

Yavlinsky: In a dark doorway. Your statement represents merely talk between bandits.

Svanidzye: But war always means violence.

Yavlinsky: I propose the terms that the Prime Minister is entitled to discuss in a private conversation with Maskhadov, although I would prefer to broadcast it all over the country within a day, wording the conditions as an ultimatum or whatever. I am not the Russian Prime Minister. I don't set forth any ultimatum. I set forth a plan that will enable us to rally the population of the Northern Caucasus to our side, in order to obtain a final victory over the enemy. This is what I propose.

Svanidzye: What is your attitude to Vladimir Putin's actions in the Northern Caucasus to date?

Yavlinsky: Putin has for the first time in five years placed the troops in such a position that today we can - if we act without making mistakes - resolve this task correctly, settle the Chechenian conflict and guarantee security to Russian citizens both in Chechnya, on the Chechenian borders and in Russia in general. It is important not to make mistakes now. That is why I have made my declaration today.

ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals