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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stepashin- Yabloko Talks Fail

Negotiations to bring former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin onto the Yabloko ticket for December parliamentary elections failed because Stepashin feared Kremlin pressure, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky said Thursday.

"Stepashin said exactly the following: that he knows how they twist arms in the Kremlin, and if this happens, he cannot guarantee anything," Yavlinsky said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. "That is the result of our negotiations."

The negotiations themselves were something of a surprise, and neither Yavlinsky nor Stepashin would say who approached whom first.

Yavlinsky said he offered Stepashin the No. 2 spot on Yabloko's party list. If Yabloko won more than 5 percent of the national vote, Stepashin would be guaranteed a seat in parliament.

But Yavlinsky said Stepashin would be Yabloko's weak spot if the Kremlin were to attempt to sabotage its bid for the State Duma, where it now holds about 45 seats out of 450.

Citing a provision in election law that says a party is barred from elections if one of its top three candidates bows out, Stepashin refused his offer, on grounds that as a military officer, he must take the president's orders, Yavlinsky said.

"Any person from the top three quits before elections, and the whole party has to quit with him," Yavlinsky said. "Stepashin is a military man and an officer. Formally, he cannot be on that list because if he were, it could happen that sometime in November, he'll receive some appointment - to head, say, Russia's unified military corps in Africa ... What would happen then?"

The Kremlin is already waging a propaganda campaign against its main rival for power, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhov's Fatherland party. Stepashin says he was sacked last Monday for failing to sabotage or co-opt Fatherland for the Kremlin.

Since his sacking, Stepashin has become hot political property, and many moderate and right-wing parties have hinted they would like him on their ticket.

Journalists packed into a tiny Interfax conference room, anticipating a joint declaration of cooperation by Stepashin and Yavlinsky after radio and television stations speculated Stepashin had called Yavlinsky to his suburban dacha Thursday morning to accept Yabloko's offer.

But Yavlinsky turned up alone and announced he had arrived to express Yabloko's concern about the two-week-old Islamic insurgency in the southern region of Dagestan. Answering journalists' questions, he said Yabloko would back Stepashin in the single mandate district in St. Petersburg from which he plans to run for the Duma, even though Yabloko member Sergei Nikiforov now holds that seat.

Some observers speculated that Yavlinsky and Stepashin might have fallen out over who would occupy the top spot on the Yabloko list.