Accusations by Grigory Yavlinsky, head of the liberal Yabloko movement, concerning corruption in Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s cabinet, provoked a series of denials and countercharges Wednesday, some of them quite furious. In an interview published Wednesday (October 28) in Britain’s “Daily Telegraph,” Yavlinsky, an economist who views himself as leading Russia’s “democratic opposition” to President Boris Yeltsin, said that corruption “determines who takes which post” in Primakov’s government. “My people in the government tell me that posts can be simply bought,” the “Telegraph” quoted Yavlinsky as saying. The newspaper reported that while the Yabloko leader refused to name names, he said government members oriented toward Russia’s left were particularly involved. It was also unclear who Yavlinsky meant when he referred to “my people in the government.” Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov was once a high-level Yabloko official, but was forced to leave the party in late 1997 after agreeing to join the cabinet. In comments to reporters later Wednesday, Yavlinsky again refused to be specific. He said only that he was constantly meeting with people working in the government, who gave him the “feeling” that the government was mired in corruption (Russian agencies, October 29).
Yavlinsky made clear in the interview that his corruption charges were not aimed at Primakov, whom the Yabloko leader backed for the premiership and continues to support. Primakov, for his part, denied Yavlinsky’s accusations, saying: “I can say unequivocally–Mr. Yavlinsky must name these people. If not publicly, then let him write to the General Prosecutor’s Office. Otherwise, he is either harboring criminals or engaging in slander.” Vladimir Putin, director of the Federal Security Service, said that when Primakov named his cabinet, he had “brought up the issue of the integrity” of the incoming ministers. Putin said he had “no information” that anyone had paid for a post. The strongest reaction came from First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. “I am disappointed that a person who tries to present himself as a serious politician has begun to engage in insinuations,” Maslyukov said. “Maybe that’s what they call politics, but it is outrageous.” Maslyukov’s press secretary called the charge that government posts were sold a “malicious lie” (Russian agencies, October 28). Some of those offended by Yavlinsky’s remarks suggested they might sue him. Indeed, “Moskovsky komsomolets” reported today (October 29) that the Justice Ministry is considering initiating proceedings to defend the government’s “honor, integrity and professional reputation” (Moskovsky komsomolets, October 29).
…BUT FEW DENY CORRUPTION IS RAMPANT.