Thursday, 24 April 2008 19:00 Dmitry Bykov Editorial Dept - Europe

Regime is Weak and Cruel...

Question: Why would President Putin invite you?

Grigori Yavlinsky: Can't say. I'm not an expert in interpretation of invitations, you know. He invited me eight years ago at the onset of his first term of office. He invited me again now, when he is about to step down. He must have decided we had to talk.

Question: Were any offers made?

Grigori Yavlinsky: Vladimir Putin knows me as an independent politician and knows that this is what I will remain. Nothing else matters.

Question: What if you are offered a seat on Putin's Cabinet?


Grigori Yavlinsky: I expect no such offers.

Question: So, what did he want?

Grigori Yavlinsky: It may have been a serious discourse or else it could be a mere episode in everyday life. We discussed non-governmental organizations at length. And before you ask, we discussed it with Condolleezza Rice too.

Question: Was it all you could discuss with Rice?

Grigori Yavlinsky: Talking to the West of economic policy errors, corruption, and control over the media was all right 10-12 years ago. No more, because the West is thoroughly anti-Russian, right forces are in the opposition, and all newspapers throughout the world condemn what is happening in Russia as tyranny. As for availability of data on harassment of the opposition and encroachment on freedoms and liberties, one only has to surf the Internet for half an hour to get all information one needs.

The way I see it, a comprehensive military treaty and collective missile defense are more pressing issues nowadays. We might scream about installation of elements of the US national missile defense in the Czech Republic and Poland until we are blue in the face, or we might save the breath and revise the military doctrine. I'd say that the latter is more preferable (more reasonable, actually) because we cannot hope to solve this particular problem all on our own. It is out of our hands, is what I mean. A collective national missile framework on the other hand is Russia's chance to start playing a new role in the world.

Question: Have Putin's eight years as president changed him?

Grigori Yavlinsky: The impression I got is that he is less interested in domestic problems now.

Question: Is there the impression then that Dmitry Medvedev will be different?

Grigori Yavlinsky: Medvedev is a different person.

Question: Do you think Sergei Ivanov could become Putin's successor?

Grigori Yavlinsky: No, I don't think he could.

Question: Why?

Grigori Yavlinsky: Because he has never behaved as though he were a true continuer of Putin. Ivanov has always had his own priorities. And resources too, by the way. Personnel resources.

Question: Are you saying that Gazprom is not Medvedev's resource?

Grigori Yavlinsky: Structures like Gazprom are a resource only when their money is used to promote political objectives. Medvedev has never used it in this manner.

Question: Let's say you are in the government, just for argument's sake. What will you begin with?

Grigori Yavlinsky: I'll guarantee inviolability of private property and correct consequences of the criminal privatization campaign of the 1990s. That's what it will take to make business stop being afraid.

Question: Do you think Ukraine really needs to be in NATO?

Grigori Yavlinsky: Are you saying if I think that Ukraine should go for it despite what it will do to the Russian-Ukrainian relations? No, I do not think that it should be in NATO. Simply because effects of the confrontation with Russia will obliterate all benefits Ukraine as a NATO member may count on. But neither should Russia seek quarrels with Ukraine. It is a vast and powerful country. Treating it without the respect it does deserve is a mistake.

Question: It is known that you asked Putin to do something about Reznik [Maxim Reznik, Yabloko - St.Petersburg leader taken into custody several days before Yavlinsky's audience with Putin - Sobesednik]. It is also known that Reznik is your opponent who would displace you as Yabloko leader given half a chance...

Grigori Yavlinsky: I have no objections to having opponents. That's quite all right. I like it that there are people in the party who would dearly like to see the last of me. On the other hand, I'm not building a power vertical in the party. If someone wants to displace me, it's fine by me. I know that there must be people who dislike the fact that I've been the only leader Yabloko knows all these years. Let them wish me out all they want. The fact it, they cannot do anything about it, or so I think.

Question: Do you plan to join the democratic coalition that met in St.Petersburg not long ago?

Grigori Yavlinsky: No.

Question: Why?

Grigori Yavlinsky: Because I do not believe in this whole idea.

Question: Why do you dislike Garry Kasparov so much?

Grigori Yavlinsky: I do not have anything against him personally. Moreover, I seriously pondered the idea of joining street protests when the police started roughing up Dissenter March participants.

As for Kasparov, I wish he returned to playing chess or became interested in anything else... as long as he abandons his efforts to engineer a revolution. The regime in Russia is weak but cruel, and no attempt to topple it in the manner Kasparov is obsessed with has ever succeeded. There is nothing good about collapse of the regime and the state. As for appeals to the international community under the circumstances, I'd say that it is a laugh, nothing else.

Whoever is out to accomplish something should get serious, he should come up with an alternative and try to persuade people that this alternative will work. Also importantly, whoever really means business should remain legitimate as long as possible and stay away from National Bolsheviks and the likes of them.

Question: Since revolutions - orange and otherwise – are impossible, shall we expect everything to collapse on its own?

Grigori Yavlinsky: We have 10-15 years longer, we have some resources and opportunities we cannot afford to waste away. In any case, however, our time is running out and wasting it on all these "third way" speculations is a crime.

There are no third ways, there is only the Third World where Russia may end in. It will be lucky to end there without a territorial collapse. That is why fomenting another, the third in the last 100 years, collapse of the Russian state is unacceptable. I was raised differently, with an emphasis on creation. I will therefore do everything to avert this catastrophe.

Question: Shall we expect any tightening of the grip, domestically?

Grigori Yavlinsky: It is possible indeed. Things are bound to change. We will see either a turn to a modern society or a tightening of the state grip on society.

Translated and shortened by Johnson's Russia List Special Edition

Interview Provided by Sobesednik Magazine, Russia

Images Courtesy of WikiMedia/Grigori Yavlinsky and the Yabloko Party Websitesglobalfreepress

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