‘Syria is a trap for Russia,’ says Putin rival Grigory Yavlinsky

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In an exclusive interview with DW, Russian economist and politician Grigory Yavlinsky says Putin’s policy of protecting the Syrian regime was not in Russia’s interest. Yavlinsky sees no change in Kremlin’s policies.

Russian economist and politician Grigory Yavlinsky is best known for drafting historic market reforms for former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, which led to the Soviet Union’s transition from a centrally planned economy to a free market.

Yavlinsky, a known critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was one of his challengers in the March presidential elections.

Yavlinsky, who founded the Yabloko party, spoke to DW on Putin’s reform plans and Russia’s role in the Syrian War.

DW: Mr. Yavlinsky, German Chancellor Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin are going to meet in Sochi to talk about business and the economy. Putin plans to modernize Russia with the help of Germany, with the help of the West. Can this work?

Yavlinsky: Honestly, I have no idea about that kind of a plan of Mr. Putin. What I see in reality: I see the annexation of Crimea, I see the suppression of free press, I see the limitations almost everywhere and the isolation [of Russia] on the international level. I don’t expect any reforms or any real changes in the forthcoming future. Sochi is certainly a nice place but I don’t think any real change is going to take place.

DW: But there is a new government in Russia and everybody expects something is going to happen.

Yavlinsky: Nobody expects any changes including the people in the Kremlin. They are all saying no surprise. And I am saying not only no surprise but I think this is absolutely the same government with the same Mr. Putin.

DW: You have been very vocal about the war in Syria. What do you mean by that?

Yavlinsky: Syria for Russia is a trap — a trap that is not going to yield positive results. The attempt of Mr. Putin to protect [President Bashar] Assad has nothing in common with Russia’s national interests or with the interest of Russian security or with the interest of Russia’s future. The policy of protecting totalitarian regimes is not a policy that is in the interest of the Russian people. So the money and the lives lost in these causes are not giving any fruitful results for my country. This policy is a wrong policy. The same I can say about the policy vis-a-vis Ukraine, eastern Ukraine, Donbass. All this is bringing Russia to a dead end.

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