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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yavlinsky Attacks Kremlin at Party Congress

ST. PETERSBURG -- Grigory Yavlinsky and his liberal Yabloko movement have reaffirmed their fierce opposition to the Kremlin at a party conference, courting ex-Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and deriding the government as a criminal oligarchy that uses "the people like a taxi."


Little has been heard from Yavlinsky or his movement since he finished in fourth place in June's first round of presidential elections.


But at the weekend's annual congress and in a television appearance thereafter, the ex-boxer made it clear he has lost none of his fight.


"The authorities use the people like a taxi," Yavlinsky said at the congress, while repeatedly referring to the government as a "criminal monopolistic oligarchy."


"Corruption [in the Russian government] is no longer a personal trait but an economic category," he said. "We used to worry that soon Russia would be like Latin America. Now Latin Americans worry that they soon will be like Russia."


Yavlinsky was equally combative when interviewed on NTV's "Itogi" current affairs show Sunday evening. When the show's host, Yevgeny Kiselyov, asked him about mistakes he had made during the presidential election campaign, Yavlinksy said his biggest mistake had been to underestimate how much the media was co-opted by President Boris Yeltsin.


Yavlinsky's attacks on Yeltsin found an amiable audience in Gorbachev, who attended the annual Yabloko conference, sat in the front row nodding agreement throughout and pronounced himself "satisfied with what I have heard today."


"We must form a united democratic opposition to this regime that Grigory Yavlinsky accurately characterized in his speech," Gorbachev said.


That message could resonate with voters who reluctantly supported Yeltsin mostly as a way to block Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov from the Kremlin.


"There is an opening for uniting people who are interested in the redemocratization of Russia," said Alexei Levinson, a top researcher at VTsIOM, the sociological research agency. "Voting for the president was painful for the democrats. They feel as if they raped themselves and now they need to cure their souls."


Yavlinsky squashed the evident desire of some Yabloko members at the congress to unite with other democratic parties, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia, but in particular Russia's Democratic Choice.