Yavlinsky in Rare Talks With Putin

Presidential Press ServicePutin holding closed-door talks with Yavlinsky in the Kremlin on Tuesday. Analysts said the meeting could lead to Yabloko's cooperation with the Kremlin.
President Vladimir Putin held rare closed-door talks with Grigory Yavlinsky on Tuesday, his first with the tough-talking Yabloko opposition-party leader in more than a year.

A Kremlin spokesman refused to discuss the meeting, and Yabloko offered few details other than to say Putin had agreed to personally look into complaints about election violations and the detention of a Yabloko leader.

But with the talks coming shortly after the presidential election, political analysts said they could be a harbinger of Yabloko's cooperation with the Kremlin.

This would be a reversal for Yavlinsky, who has repeatedly shunned Kremlin job offers. He refused to join Boris Yeltsin's government in the 1990s, saying he prized his independence and reputation.

He has rejected overtures from Putin's Kremlin as well, and has not met with Putin himself since December 6, 2006.

A statement from Yabloko said the two also covered questions of economic modernization, property rights and political opposition.

Yavlinsky's spokesperson, Yevgenia Dillendorf, said the most concrete discussion concerned the case of Maxim Reznik, a party activist who was detained earlier this month.

Immediately after the meeting, Yavlinsky called Reznik's mother, Galina Malinovskaya, 52, to assure her that Putin had promised to look into his case.

"This, of course, gives me hope, which is something I didn't have before," Malinovskaya said. "I will never understand what they are doing to my son, but it seems there may soon be an end to all of this."

Malinovskaya said she would set off immediately to the St. Petersburg City Prosecutor's Office to request her son's release.

Reznik was detained early March 3 as he left Yabloko's St. Petersburg office, where he had been checking reports of voting violations during the March 2 presidential elections.

His supporters said he was approached and beaten by plainclothes officers outside the building and that a uniformed police officer then detained him. The city's Dzerzhinsky District Court remanded him in custody for 2 months while an investigation was conducted into allegations that he assaulted a police officer.

Investigators told Malinovskaya late Tuesday that her son would not be released immediately and that she would not be allowed to see him until at least Friday, she said.


Mikhail Klimentyev / Ria-Novosti / AP
Medvedev and Putin listening to Vladimir Zhirinovsky during a Kremlin meeting with parliamentary leaders Tuesday.
The unusual meeting between Putin and Yavlinsky had some analysts pondering the possibility that the Kremlin was prepared to turn to members of opposition parties like Yabloko for advice on economic and social issues at a time when concerns like inflation and the possible instability if oil prices fall have been receiving much attention.

Stanislav Belkovsky, a Kremlin spin doctor turned political analyst, said talks between the Kremlin and Yabloko were underway to offer Yabloko officials posts in the future administration of President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, citing unidentified sources.

The Kremlin is currently looking for an opposition figure to spread the message in the West that Medvedev is a "lesser evil" than Putin, and given the party's reputation of staunch opposition to the Kremlin and Yavlinsky's history of refusing to hitch his wagon to anyone else's in the country's political arena, a major Yabloko leader would be an ideal candidate, he said.

Medvedev, speaking later at a meeting with Putin and senior State Duma functionaries, said he would frequently meet with leading political forces.

"In my new post, I intend to engage in a constant, constructive dialog with all healthy political forces in society and the leading institutes of civil society," he said, Interfax reported.

Alexei Arbatov, Yavlinsky's deputy, would be a prime candidate for a job in the Defense or Foreign ministries, Belkovsky said.

Arbatov said by telephone Tuesday that he new nothing of the talks and refused to speculate, saying everything would depend on the post offered.

Arbatov, who is a nonproliferation analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said he had never met Medvedev but that he thought highly of him.

"I rather like Medvedev, and I liked him even before Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin decided to support him," he said, adding that Medvedev would be Russia's youngest leader in the past 100 years.

Arbatov said Medvedev and Yavlinsky met fairly frequently before the parliamentary elections to discuss economic issues.

A State Duma member from 1994 to 2003 and deputy head of the legislature's Defense Committee, Arbatov added that both the Kremlin and the United Russia party had come to realize that they needed a second opinion on economic policy and other issues.

"Without [genuine] opposition they wouldn't be able to recognize their own mistakes," he said.

Igor Artemyev, the head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, and Vladimir Lukin, the human rights ombudsman, are two officials from the Yabloko stable who have nailed down senior jobs.

As for Yavlinksy himself, Belkovsky said there was little likelihood that he would end up with a new job, as he was "too much of a heavyweight and too old."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to discuss Tuesday's meeting. Yavlinsky was also unavailable for further comment.