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Interview of Grigory Yavlinsky by Sergey Dorenko
ORT channel, October 24, 1999
Interviewer: Sergey Dorenko
Dorenko: Grigory Alexeevich, first of all I would like you to describe your position clearly and concisely, so that you don't appear to be an absolute opponent to everything. I said that you are an opponent, but at the same time I am eager to hear about your position.

Yavlinsky: Our position can be summed up as follows: today the requisite conditions have been established for increased control over security in the Northern Caucasus. We support the government's actions, with respect to our troops's success in establishing control over the heights (Ed. around Chechnya). We think that our troops should consolidate their positions in the heights. We think that a security zone border must be created. It should be established in line with modern equivalents, as it will function for many years. In our opinion the authorities should announce today from a position of force their conditions for holding negotiations with the representatives of Chechnya, the Chechnyan leadership, in order to resolve once and forever the problem of whether Maskhadov (Ed. President of Chechnya) co-operates with Russia in removing the terrorists or whether Maskhadov is in fact in charge of the terrorists.

Dorenko: But what if it is neither of the two? In general in my opinion this is the weakest point in this form of argument: neither of these two options is possible. We speak about the "regime" there: by the way I was talking to members of the Russian government - members of Putin's delegation to Helsinki. They said that there was a "criminal regime" there. But what if there is no criminal regime? There is simply lawless chaos. And Maskhadov is no one there, a nonentity.

Yavlinsky: When foreigners begin discussing the situation in Russia, they repeat your words for Russia in general. They start saying that there is lawless chaos in Russia, that the President does not rule anything, that the people in the Far East do whatever they want, that bombs explode every day and that even the normal functioning of the legislative assembly in St Petersburg is impossible, and so on.

However, you know far too well that today Russia represents exactly what was originally intended. Today Russia has the President whom it elected in 1996. Maskhadov was elected in the same way. In this sense he is also a legitimate president. By the way, Maskhadov has one advantage over everybody else in Chechnya - he is not connected with Moscow's political criminal circles. Irrespective of whether he is a good or bad president, he should face a direct question. Our security depends on the following issue: whether the slave trade, torture of hostages and terrorist raids will be stopped in Chechnya and whether civil international standards will be observed there. And he must state clearly and distinctly if he will co-operate with the Russian authorities to achieve these goals or oppose them.

Dorenko: You talk about co-operation with Russian troops: I think that today Maskhadov does not have any forces of his own. Therefore we should admit that either Maskhadov traded slaves and heroin or he is a nonentity if he failed to prevent all this happening.

I am sure you can recall Makhadov's visit to Britain, before Her Majesty's subjects were beheaded in Chechnya. He made the following statement. He said that he would find them: he swore, he gave his word. He did all these things. But, you know, compared to Russia, Chechnya is a small territory, where everybody knows everybody and everyone knows where hostages are hidden. At least they know in the villages about the actual cellars where hostages are kept, they know their names and who they are. And then the shariat took a hostage from Maskhadov. You know the case, where the shariat court simply prohibited him from returning the hostage. Maskhadov is a nonentity. Therefore if you say that he must co-operate with our troops, this means that he must become a "political" deputy of Kazantsev and drive the bandits to the Georgian border, remove them and imprison Basayev. That is how I understand your statement.

Yavlinsky: You misheard: I referred to the authorities and not the troops. Because Maskhadov officially represents the civil authorities in Chechnya. Maskhadov must undertake steps that would indicate that he is co-operating with the Russian authorities in eliminating the source of terrorism in Russia. This is the sense. You should not be accountable to Maskhadov, but Maskhadov should be accountable to the Prime Minister. Neither you or I together in this studio should be responsible for developments there. We should create the requisite conditions, where the Prime Minister of Russia will be able to ask this question directly to his face and get an answer - one way or the other. Subsequent events will depend on this situation.

Dorenko: You mean that he must raise a riot in Basayev's rear guard and wait until the Russian tanks come to rescue him?

Yavlinsky: No, he must dismiss from official posts all those responsible for who are blamedin terrorism.

Dorenko: He would be sentencing himself.

Yavlinsky: That is his problem. This is man's talk. We are in no position to be excessively soft towards him. We must protect the security of our women and children and the freedom of our country. We cannot enter into such details. He must take a decision. He was president there for three years. He is responsible for all the developments in that territory. Incidentally, Boris Yeltsin is similarly responsible for all the developments in our country in general, including this whole issue. At some time these people must start answering the main questions. But they must face such questions. It is not possible to start bombings, make explosions and say some foolish things about explosions in markets, etc. The question must be put clearly and the goal must be set. The prime minister's actions today deserve support. The most important issue is how the situation will evolve.

Dorenko: I have a question about the army's mood. I was in Daghestan near Novolakskoiye. People are enraged. I am not speaking about the ranks today, I am speaking about the army officers who participated in the previous campaign in Chechnya. They are angry that they have not been allowed to deal the final blow.

As this has happened to them on many occasions, not only the last time when they surrendered Grozny and let the terrorists escape from the mountains, but many times during the campaign. When they see the sun rise many times, they are sure that the sun will rise tomorrow as well.

They saw many times how they had been betrayed and they are 100% sure that they will be betrayed again. By the way, Putin's authority is based on their conviction that Putin won't betray them. But they are sure that all these discussions... Now I am stepping on slippery ground, as we probably must not stop the discussions, but to what extent can we trust the actions of the army?

Yavlinsky: Here we must draw a clear border line. We should support the army 100%. This is the army we have. Our soldiers fight to the best of their ability. They implement their tasks and pay with their lives for this service. We must provide unconditional support for the army. You have just said that the politicians are responsible for all the developments and discussions - the decision-makers who ordered them to stop or not to stop in the past. They are responsible. Today we are not speaking about the army. The army does its business to the best of its ability. I would prefer to have a better trained, better paid and better equipped army, as Russia is a country that can either be strong and powerful or cannot exist and it will be torn into pieces***: there is no other way out. Look at our borders. Therefore we are not addressing this question to the army today. The army does what it can as best it can. Let it be blessed, and let us support and protect it. Today we address this question to the politicians, who issue commands to the army. Today we are speaking about them. And you stressed several times that the problem of the war in Chechnya in all its aspects has been and - as I understand, you agree now, - remains in Moscow.

Dorenko: Certainly.

Yavlinsky: I am speaking about the same thing. I would like to understand where the border line is. Only this question directly addressed to the present authorities in Chechnya may enable me to understand this***.

Dorenko: Do you rule out a situation where Moscow (I saw this happen in 1994-1996 and am ready to corroborate this statement), Moscow politicians, including the bureaucracy, play a Chechnyan card to plot against their neighbours, their competitors or a competing party? If Putin is doing well today - I am simply trying to extrapolate developments and they are going to happen or have already started happening - the politicians will criticise the army to plot against Putin. This Moscow plotting is inevitable in this election year. And inevitably the interests of Russia, or the army or even Chechnya will be shifted even further than 25th place. Interests will evolve around the people they should plot against, the people whose ratings they want to reduce, etc.

Yavlinsky: I agree with your statement. But I also want to show you the other side of the coin. What about paying with soldiers' lives for presidential elections? What about paying with soldiers' lives for a rise in ratings? This is the other side. That is the issue. Our task is to restrict ourselves to our country's interests and the security of our citizens. What is our final goal in Chechnya? Our goal is not to conquer Chechnya, subdue and kill everyone there. We have a completely different goal: to ensure the security of Russian citizens in Chechnya and on the borders with Chechnya.

Dorenko: That is absolutely right. And the minimum task here will be to neutralise terrorism in Chechnya by all means, as we cannot allow another situation like the exploding apartment block in Kashirka (Ed. a street in Moscow). The minimum task is to neutralise the terrorists and the maximum task is to incorporate a peaceful, happy and flourishing Chechnya. I don't know when we will manage to achieve this goal.

Yavlinsky: Our task today is as follows: we should either bring terrorists to court or remove them. There is no other way. We should either remove them or bring them to court. But we will be able to fulfil this task, if we come to terms with the population.

ORT channel, October 24, 1999
Interviewer: Sergey Dorenko
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