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Interview with Mr. Mihail Kasianov -the leader of the Russian opposition, Mihail Kasianov

„People do think that Russia uses the price of gas to discriminate between “good” and “bad” countries –  I believe this practice is wrong and it should be really stopped” affirm ex-premier and the leader of the Russian opposition, Mihail Kasianov

Within the Romanian Conference, event held within the NATO Summit, you said to the media that „relationships between Romania and Russia are normal”. How do you explain in this case the fact that Romania pays the most expensive price of all European countries for the natural gas imported from Russia (420$ set, forecasted to grow to 470$)?
I believe it is hardly normal to judge the level and quality of relations between Russia and the other countries, including Romania, by the price of gas in the bilateral contract. Evidently, this price of gas should be based on a clear and transparent formula taking into account current market conditions and the cost of delivery. That’s it!
But the fact that you ask this question is quite illuminating – people do think that Russia uses the price of gas to discriminate between “good” and “bad” countries –  I believe this practice is wrong and it should be really stopped.

In the same context, President Traian Basescu recently declared that, according to his discussions with Vladimir Putin, „the gas price is high because of intermediaries” and that he is to discuss with Moscow for a new scheme that should cut off these intermediaries. Which are your com­ments on this aspect? (taking into consideration that these intermediaries – of course, you remember – are companies owned by people close to Kremlin, with shares owned by Gazprom)?
Unfortunately the whole sphere of gas trading in Russia is one of the most non-transparent and dubious. Nobody analyses the rationale of Gazprom’s policies. Under current political regime Gazprom is not accountable to the Russian government as its major share­holder and to the Russian peo­ple. We must change it after the change of political course in the country.
But there is also another side of the coin. If Gazprom imposes on its con­su­mers any murky and unnece­s­sary relationships, making the price higher, it should be declared by them publicly and officially – otherwise they have no reason to complain. I hope that the intercession of President Basescu will have a good effect.

Also, is the Nabucco project a viable and profitable one? Does Europa need it (with Nord & South Stream project)? Please discuss on the issue.
I am not a great oil and gas expert and have no detailed information to seriou­sly discuss the merits of any par­ticular project in the field. But generally speaking, I am afraid that a lot of re­dun­dant investment is being conside­red or already executed due to mutual mis­trust between the countries – such as competing and incompatible pipe­li­nes. Unfortunately, at least a part of the blame in that regard can be put on Russia which does not always behave as a constructive partner. Energy dia­logue Russia-EU set by my gover­n­ment and the European Commission is now forgotten and the parties instead of cooperative behavior producing win-win solutions turned to “zero-sum ga­me’ strategies. I believe it is entirely counter­productive in the long-term.

According to political analysts, Medvedev-Putin tandem is, at least for the moment, really strong, the Moscow political scene is therefore settled. Which are the chances for the oppo­si­tion in the current political context of Russia (especially now, when the State Duma is constituted by pro-Kremlin formations, opposition is reduced aggressive to silence and those parties which are registered have to permanently reconfirm an informal “loyalty contract” with Kremlin)?
As you rightly mention, under current environment there could be no political activity not sanctioned directly from the Kremlin. The appointed Duma is domesticated, appointed governors do not represent a political force, courts are servile, mass media is un­der permanent pressure. Elections as an institute has been destroyed and the country will live with illegitimate Duma and President.
At the same time there are a lot of signs of the coming crisis–acce­lerating inflation, blatant corruption, out-of-da­te infrastructure and defunct social sector. The new authorities will have to deal with all these crises simul­ta­ne­ously. It brings us a little hope of real change from above.
So we have established a broad set of demands to the new authorities as a prerequisite for cooperation. We de­mand the restoration of civil and poli­tical rights of people, canceling the recent amendments to the election system, revoking the ill-based political verdicts by the judiciary, releasing pressure of mass media. In the new political environment early elections should be called to form a genuine legitimate legislature.

Why, with little exception, your colleagues from the opposition weren’t audible when the registration services and judiciary rejected to register your party or when you were fighting off at the presidential elections?
This just reflects the fact that peo­ple do not believe that anything could be done in the current environment. Many of them prefer to wait and see rather than actively fight with the anti-democratic policies. If we tolerate all the negative developments it could be too late to protest – everything will be under concrete and will not be possible changes.
You mentioned that Russia is experiencing a growing self-isolation as follow its deviations from the demo­cracy values. Do you consider that the weak representation of the Russian opposition has done anything to change this Russian „isolation”?
In fact, People’s Democratic Union (PDU) has established quite friendly ties with the parties and international political alliances – both in Europe and globally. For instance, we are actively cooperating with the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR).
One of our tasks currently is with priority to explain to our friends and colleagues abroad that Russia and the Russian authorities are different, that the country and people should feel isolated, should not suffer because of the political swings of their authorities. To avoid it the West should continue the policy of engagement – with youth, NGOs, businesses, researchers, political activists. The more Russian people see how democracy works and how citizens are treated in the West by their states, the earlier they would demand the same at home. We are strong proponents of such a fight with ‘isolation’ of Russia.

There is no doubt that you are the leader of the Russian opposition. Do you believe that you also are the providential person will to get the opposition in office at the next elections? How will you pass over “the little hubris” which prevent to grind the necessary unity of the opposition?
Despite many drawbacks and failures in coalition-building I remain an optimist. I do believe that we can overcome the mutual mistrust and build a coalition with a strong program of democratic and market-oriented development. After four years of full neglect of any reforms in all the spheres of life Russia badly needs modernization and the sooner it will be clear for majority of people, the better. The first move down this road should be done by the authorities – they must restore the democratic process and the main rights and freedoms of the citizens who will express their free will. We expect a new attitude from authorities side, but from oposition’s colleague side, too.

By Gabriela Ioniţă

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 57
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