St. Petersburg, May 13 (nca/Brian Whitmore) - Russian presidential candidate Grigory Yavlinsky yesterday said in St. Petersburg that any suggestions of him joining forces with President Boris Yeltsin to keep Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov out of the Kremlin are false.
But he also said that the May 5 meeting with Yeltsin had been conducted with the goal of political collaboration in mind.
"We met for over two hours,' Yavlinsky said. "This was the second meeting in five years. I said my piece and he (Yeltsin) said he would have to think."
Yavlinsky refused to speculate about what he would do if Yeltsin and Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov became the only candidates left in the run-off. "It is too early to talk of coalitions before the first round takes place," he said.
In an earlier interview with the NTV news program "Itogi," Yavlinsky said that he had presented his positions to the president and that Yeltsin had been "very attentive."
Following the meeting, Yeltsin was reported to have said that he and Yavlinsky "were uniting" their campaigns. Last week, Yavlinsky was reported to have said that there were no grounds for this assertion.
Yesterday, Yavlinsky told Yabloko activists in St Petersburg that the chances for a coalition with Yeltsin were slim. He said that Yeltsin would have to "dismiss his entire executive staff and admit basic failure of his policies" before any agreement on joint actions were to be reached.
Yavlinsky went on to say that "the Yeltsin campaign is faultering -- he cannot stop the war in Chechnya,he cannot pay pensions and salaries, and he has taken steps toward rebuilding the USSR in his farcical unification with Belarus."
The Yabloko leader was equally critical of Gennady Zyuganov. He said that, "the future of Russia does not lie with the Communists of Gennady Zyuganov or with Yeltsin and his people. The future of Russia rests with the Russian citizens."
Turning to his own policy platform, Yavlinsky promised to end the war in Chechnya within first months of his presidency, implement a comprehensive program of property rights and institute a dragnet on government corruption. "Without this," he said, "the next millennium will be the one of crime, corruption and mafia."
Yavlinsky also promised to institute tax reform and create a stable tax base. He said that following these reforms, the minimum wage in Russia could triple and health and education benefits for children could quintuple. "We need lower taxes that everybody can pay," Yavlinsky said.
Yavlinsky dismissed Western support of Yeltsin, saying that "it has no significance for Russia." He said that "Yeltsin can receive [International Monetary Fund] credits but that has no significance for citizens -- you will not find a single entrepreneur or a single businessman here for whom these credits have had any significance."
Finally, Yavlinsky said that he was ready to work together with with Alexander Lebed and Svyatoslav Fyodorov, the two other presidential candidates. But said the final determination of their respective positions within the "alliance" is "still an open question."
Fyodorov was reported to have expressed his readiness to step down as a presidential candidate in favor of Yavlinsky, provided that he be offered the post of prime-minister
Lebed told a television interviewer last week, that he would not step down as a presidential candidate.