Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 61

The real losers in yesterday’s vote were those within the democratic part of Russia’s electorate who opposed Vladimir Putin, regarding him as a potential threat to civil liberties and democratic norms. Yavlinsky, for example, stressed in the final days of his campaign that he saw little difference between Putin, on the one hand, and Zyuganov and the communists, on the other. Given the Yabloko leader’s share of the vote, that message was clearly not well received by most Russian voters. It should be noted, however, that Yavlinsky came in second in Moscow.

Putin’s victory appears to have split the camp of Russia’s “reformers” even more widely. Yavlinsky and Sergei Kirienko, head of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) coalition, had an acrimonious exchange early this morning on NTV television. Kirienko reiterated his support for Putin. Yavlinsky repeated that he saw little difference between Putin and Zyuganov and defended his policy of refusing to cut a deal with the government (NTV, March 27). In a separate interview, Yavlinsky said that the results would permit “more concrete and deep negotiations on the creation of a wide right liberal coalition” (Reuters, March 27).

In an interview today, Kirienko said that Putin was supported mainly by people younger than 35 and those older than 60–who voted for Putin “as a person of a new generation”–and that his [Putin’s] victory demonstrated that the majority of Russians support a “liberal market economy” (Radio Ekho Moskvy, March 27). Just days before the election, the SPS leadership voted to endorse Putin–a decision which was opposed by other SPS leaders and members. Another top member of the SPS, Boris Nemtsov, who tried to straddle the pro- and anti-Putin camps, said in an interview late last night that he hoped a run-off election would be needed, given that Putin had not unveiled his economic program or detailed other elements of his platform. Speaking on NTV television, Nemtsov openly expressed fears over what Putin might do to Russia’s independent media, specifically mentioning NTV. Nemtsov noted that on March 24 NTV aired an investigation into allegations that the Federal Security Service was behind a thwarted attempt to bomb an apartment in the city of Ryazan and to then blame the incident on Chechen terrorists. Nemtsov suggested that the government might retaliate against NTV for this report (NTV, March 26).

Last week, Yavlinsky, NTV, Most-Media–the media conglomerate which owns NTV–and Most-Media founder Vladimir Gusinsky, were all sharply attacked on Russian Public Television (ORT), the 51-percent state-owned television station said to be controlled by Boris Berezovsky. ORT accused Yavlinsky, among other things, of receiving foreign money for his campaign and emphasized that another Yavlinsky supporter, Media-Most’s Gusinsky, had dual Russian-Israeli citizenship (see the Monitor, March 23). Several minor presidential candidates echoed ORT’s charges that Yavlinsky had received foreign funding for his campaign. Filmmaker Stanislav Govoryukhin continued to make those charges last night (NTV, March 26).