Yashin Will Try to Unseat Yavlinsky

MTYashin being detained at a Dissenters' March organized by opposition coalition The Other Russia in Moscow in April.
Ilya Yashin, the 24-year-old leader of Yabloko's youth group, announced Wednesday that he would seek to unseat Grigory Yavlinsky as the party's leader and unite liberal politicians in a new political movement.

"People are not able to choose between good democrats and bad democrats," Yashin said at a news conference.

"We need to create a democratic party that will act as a magnet for everyone with these general values," he said.

Yashin is a revolutionary-minded activist who is conspicuous at anti-Kremlin rallies. He has been seen hanging from a bridge and being chased through the street by OMON riot police.

He said Wednesday's announcement was a first step toward stirring a popular revolution. "To change the power structures in this country will require something akin to Polish solidarity," he said.

Yavlinsky -- who has led Yabloko since its founding in 1995 and rejects uniting at the expense of Yabloko's social-democratic values -- has said Yashin is not ready to take the helm of the party.

"He would need to become not today's Ilya Yashin, but someone rather different," Yavlinsky said at a news conference last month.

Yevgenia Dillendorf, Yavlinsky's spokeswoman, said his views on the matter have not changed.

Yashin said Wednesday that he had no idea what Yavlinsky meant by saying he would need to change to become leader.

Although adamant that he has no personal conflict with Yavlinsky, Yashin accused him of putting the integrity of the party above the democratic movement. He said Yavlinsky had told him that party officials were in regular contact with the presidential administration.

"I guarantee that, if I become Yabloko's leader, I will not allow any cooperation with the Kremlin," Yashin said.

Yabloko officials have denied links with the Kremlin.

The party will discuss internal changes in February and hold a vote in July.

Yashin faces an uphill battle until then. Sergei Mitrokhin, a senior Yabloko official, said he agreed with Yavlinsky's stance on Yashin. He declined to elaborate or discuss his own future.

Yashin earlier promised not to seek the leadership post if Mikhail Amosov, an experienced campaigner from Yabloko's St. Petersburg office, put himself forward. Yashin said Wednesday that he would consider pulling out if a more popular candidate emerged who sought to unite the liberals.

"The realization of this [unification] program is more important than my personal ambitions to head the party," Yashin said.

Amosov could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Despite the obstacles, Yashin said he had support adding up to "several dozen" party members in 15 regions.

There is little disagreement within Yabloko that something needs to be done after the party garnered only 1.6 percent of the vote in recent State Duma elections.