Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yavlinsky Dismisses Union Idea, Almost

Grigory Yavlinsky cast strong doubts Sunday on the possibility of an electoral alliance with President Boris Yeltsin prior to the June 16 presidential vote, while other leading Russian politicians talked up the idea of the two men joining forces.

In a St. Petersburg press conference Sunday, the Yabloko leader and presidential candidate again contradicted Yeltsin's Saturday comments that he and Yavlinsky were already "uniting."

"Whatever the chances are that Yeltsin will fire his entire executive staff, will admit the colossal failure of his policies, such are the possibilities of discussing a coalition," Yavlinsky said.

But Yavlinsky seemed to leave the door open for some kind of cooperation with Yeltsin by refusing to discuss what he will do if Yeltsin and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov face off in a second round of voting.

Also on Sunday, Yabloko official and State Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina said Yavlinsky is strongly in favor of uniting Russia's democratic forces prior to the election.

Mizulina was attending a Moscow meeting of an initiative group composed of representatives of various political parties organized by Vladimir Shumeiko, head of the pro-Yeltsin Reforms-New Course movement.

She dismissed the view that Yavlinsky places his own political career ahead of the country's interests. "Grigory Alexeyevich [Yavlinsky] views his electorate very seriously and with great respect, and knows perfectly well that a victory in the elections is impossible without uniting the reform forces."

The meeting, which was also attended by a representatives of Our Home Is Russia and the Union of Afghan Veterans, among others, produced a statement which said members of the initiative group will support Yeltsin "in the capacity of a united candidate for the elections."

But both Mizulina and Shumeiko, who presided over the Sunday meeting, stressed that the leaders of those parties who have representatives in the initiative group are not required to withdraw their own candidacies.

At the same time, Sergei Belyayev, head of the pro-Yeltsin Our Home Is Russia faction in the State Duma, called Sunday for all democratic candidates to drop their candidacies in favor of Yeltsin, Interfax reported.

Yavlinsky also addressed a meeting of Yabloko's Central Council in St. Petersburg on Sunday. He was sharply critical of the Yeltsin government's economic policies and the war in Chechnya, saying that Yeltsin "is getting farther from democracy, and is abandoning such values as the human right to life and freedom."

The Yabloko leader laid out his own electoral platform, promising to halt the bloodshed in the breakaway republic in the first 100 days of his administration. He said he would personally oversee the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya and would fire those in the government who have been responsible for war. He said that the Chechens must decide their own future in referendum.

But Yavlinsky, said that he would require the Chechen separatists to renounce terrorism as a prerequisite to negotiations.

On the economic front, Yavlinsky promised to increase the minimum wage gradually by 200 percent, the average wage in government-funded industries, pensions and student grants each two times. On the revenue side, Yavlinsky promised, among other things, to legalize the shadow economy, abolish tax privileges, strictly control budgetary spending, cut the government bureaucracy and halt capital flight.

Yavlinsky said he represented those who oppose both Yeltsin and Zyuganov, saying that the history of communist rule "forever denies this party any right to power in this country."

"If the communists gain power and start implementing their policy, they would find me a much more unbending opponent than the current authorities do," he said.

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, himself a presidential candidate, warned Yavlinsky and the other "Third Force" candidates -- former General Alexander Lebed and eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fyodorov -- against forming a coalition with Yeltsin.

"I would not want them to fall into the trap set for them by the president and his team," said Gorbachev at a Sunday press conference. "That will be political death for them. Most important, that will be a big loss for Russia."