“We need about 40 million people”

June 29, 2016

Taking part in a Slon.ru special project titled “What to do: ideas for Russia”
Mikhail Khodorkovsky talks with Yelena Yevgrafova

Photo credit: Gianluca Colla / Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo credit: Gianluca Colla / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Russian state propaganda is dissembling when it says that the opposition has no ideas. There is one very clear idea – to change the rules of the game, which govern life in our country today, giving a narrow band of people huge privileges while depriving everyone else of any real opportunities. If there are no opportunities, there’s no drive and a country without drive is a country on the wane.

But how can we change the rules of the game without damage, such as wars or catastrophes, and ensure that the country does not slip backwards, as it did after the revolutionary changes of the 1990s? Where is the guarantee that, even if people elected at fair elections come to power, the situation will not repeat itself, that a new clan will not grab power for decades and start re-distributing the wealth to all its friends and relations?

At Slon, we decided to examine some of the significant ideas around at the moment and to initiate a discussion of them. We need to understand which ideas have already been accepted by society, and where we shall have to cross swords in the future. Former YUKOS shareholder Mikhail Khodorkovsky was the first person we invited for a discussion.

Khodorkovsky’s ideas in brief

We have to bring the country back to the path of democracy and to do this we have to have fair and free elections, an impossibility without some serious reforms. During the two-year transition period it will be essential to:

Enshrine the division of powers in an amended Constitution

  • Reform the judiciary and bring law enforcement up to date
  • Maximally devolve power from the centre to the regions
  • De-monopolise the economy

Yelena Yevgrafova: You maintain that fair and free elections are an impossibility in Russia today and that a period of transition will be essential. How can we prepare the country for the elections?

MBK: It is quite clear that, even if the regime were to collapse tomorrow, we would not be able to hold fair and free elections immediately. Firstly because the current laws would not allow it – some political figures and parties are barred from taking part, and the electoral process is underpinned by requirements preventing the true expression of voters’ opinion. The laws could be changed very quickly – that is the simplest part.  It gets more complicated further on, because it’s a question of how the law is enforced and understanding how to safeguard it.

YY: A distorted understanding …

MBK: Yes. Take, for instance, a respected person like the governor of Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleyev. He really does have enormous influence in the region: if he says to vote for Putin, then that’s what people will do.

YY: Or for Khodorkovsky …

MBK: …then they’ll vote for Khodorkovsky. Or for Navalny, Yavlinsky, Strelkov …

YY: Not for Strelkov

MBK: They’ll vote however they’re told. If you tell Tuleyev that the elections should be free and fair, he will simply not get it: “But, honest voting? Who should we be honestly voting for?” And he is far from the only one.  People in the courts and law enforcement agencies will have to be re-trained. If they’re willing, of course, and if they’re not, then new people will have to be put in, which will take at least six months – and that’s only for the most important positions.

The political parties who will put forward candidates for election have been under pressure for a long time so they cannot just be resurrected immediately. There are, of course, also the revolutionary organizations …

YY: Like yours, for example….

MBK: Ours, the Anti-Corruption Foundation and some others. But people have either distorted ideas or just very little information about them. The same is true for patriotic, left-wing associations and parties. How much time will be needed to explain to people what they stand for and whose views they represent?  The shortest period would be one year. Then we’ll need an independent Electoral Commission and independent media.

YY: How can independence be guaranteed in a short time?

MBK: By de-monopolising. After all, the big picture is that we don’t really mind who owns media outlets.

YY: As long as they don’t belong to Kovalchuk?

MBK: What is most important is that they should not be concentrated in the hands of one influence group. That’s what we have to do away with. It’s not a question of whether ownership is rightful or not: if the legality of an owner is called into question, this has to be investigated by an independent court. But the owner would have to sell part of his media holdings straight away or we freeze his shareholder rights for the transition period and introduce some public control, as there is in the BBC, for instance. This guarantees the independence of a media outlet, its compliance with the law and its adherence to ethical principles and is a usual part of anti-monopoly procedures.

YY: The press today is a mess. Slon and Vedomosti have one set of ethical principles, Channel 1 or Komsomolskaya Pravda another.  How can one specify what is ‘right’?

MBK: You can’t, and shouldn’t try to, prescribe everything. If people’s actions are considered right and proper, if they comply with the principles of independent media, then they’re OK. We’re all people, after all, and anyone can make a mistake. But, as adult, rational people, we can take a view as to whether someone will in future stand up for independent media or not and accept responsibility for our decision, more or less as a proper court would.

“You can’t, and shouldn’t try to, prescribe everything”

YY: But the court does have to abide by the law

MBK: I think that one of the most serious mistakes of our law enforcement system is that for several hundred years we have been trying to adapt ourselves to the German model: to comply with statute law. This is neither acceptable nor understood in Russia.

YY: What is the alternative? Common law?

MBK: Common law is based on the fact that the court takes account of traditions and custom, or, in a business dispute, of traditions and customs in the world of business. A business behaving in a way that is right and proper is accepted as lawful; otherwise, not. The jury is not asked to consider whether you have contravened a paragraph in a specific law – it has to decide whether what you did is sound or not and, therefore, whether you are guilty or not. For Russians this is a more understandable legal procedure.

What is also important is that justice and compliance with the law is not one and the same thing. I have already said many times how important I think it is to understand that there are lawful and unlawful laws. Putin says, “the law has to be observed,” but I say, “Oh no, lawful laws must be observed, but if a law is unlawful we have not only not to observe it, but to fight it.” At one time slavery was lawful; the holocaust and apartheid were lawful. But do we think these laws were right? Or was it the people who struggled against them that were in the right?

YY: But is there not a risk of losing our frame of reference and any chance of trusting each other, if we have to think whether we should or shouldn’t comply with a law? One of your supporters, for instance, thinks the law banning brothels is unlawful.

MBK: Under common law, laws are not passed, they reveal themselves. A law is considered to exist already in people’s minds, so it has to be formulated and expressed on paper.  But it’s a question, of course, of a common understanding of what is right, rather than changing ideas in the heads of some or other individual, where a regulation is introduced because this is what the tsar wants, as happens in Continental Law.

Non-violent resistance to unlawful laws means making use of opportunities available: if you are required ‘by law’ to destroy other people, this is a very tough moral choice. You have to decide whose life to sacrifice – your own or the other person’s. A law, which restricts the medical treatment of childen produces a choice of another kind: will I observe the law or sacrifice my career by fighting it? If it’s unjustifiably high tariffs, one can go to court or demonstrate. When I am asked how to do battle with unlawful laws, I always say that one should do whatever one feels is right and proper.

YY: What about the economy in the transition period?

MBK: As soon as we start talking about the economy, we always hit serious disagreement. To get rid of this government with no loss of blood, about 30% of the population would have to call for change. There’s no arguing with this, as they say, and the government would be replaced without incident. If there are fewer than 30%, then the period of confrontation will drag on.

“To get rid of this government with no loss of blood, about 30% of the population would have to call for change.”

YY: And who will this 30% be?

MBK: The active part of society. We’ll need about 40 million people, discounting the elderly, children and people too taken up with their own problems. Of those 40 million, some will be prepared to go out on the streets and stick it till the end, others will only be able to join in for some of the way. So if we want to unite 40 million people, we don’t have to spend time now talking about detail. During the transition period we shall only address the issues, which are absolutely essential for free and fair elections. I am constantly being asked about Crimea, for instance, but that can be left until the elections. The parties should propose their ways of answering this question and the people will decide who should be given the mandate. That is democracy.

YY: What changes would be essential for the economy during the transition?

MBK: De-monopolisation. An economy made up of more than 50% monopolies is an important factor during elections. We know how things go in one-company towns: you either vote for a certain candidate or you lose your job. Monopolies must be destroyed, or put under public control, during the transition. If this doesn’t happen, then the transition government will be able to use them to manipulate the vote. It’s not only federal monopolies – Russia is a big country and the regional monopolies are important too. It won’t be easy, but I’m not put off by the problem because I have the experience: we de-monopolised in every city we worked in.

YY: Can this really be done quickly and without a shot being fired?

MBK: What do you mean, shooting? People are now grown up and they realise that all actions will have to be accounted for. We have the law enforcement agencies for those who choose not to behave as they should. As it was in 1930s America? That’s the decision on de-monopolisation. Either you sell some of your property or, “Scuse me, sir” and we’ll do it for you.

YY: You have already mentioned the serious problem of personnel that will have to be addressed at the time when the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies are being overhauled.  Forming the government will produce the same problem – where will you find the people?

MBK: The most ordinary way – by using motivation to attract the best people. During a period of reform, the very fact that you are changing the country is already a strong motivating factor. There’s no problem with finding people and I don’t think Putin has one either. He’s very well qualified in that respect. There is negative selection in the present government because, for the president, the key criterion is personal devotion and a willingness to carry out even unlawful orders. This way he cuts himself off from the best people, who could be dedicated to the matter in hand, but don’t want to be devoted to one person. They will not obey orders, which will destroy their reputation. This pushes Putin into a very tight spot as far as personnel is concerned, but we shall have a wider selection base. A person could have built the best communications system in the world, for instance, but if he says he will not vote for us in the election, then I won’t bother with him.

YY: It sounds convincing. What worries me is that, say you have prepared the country for elections and it has split into two camps. What if a Putin or Zhirinovsky supporter wins in a free and fair election? Under the constitution, the president has enormous power – and he could put everything back as it was.

“The preparation of the country for elections can’t be done without amendments to the constitution”

MBK: This is precisely why the preparation of the country for elections can’t be done without amendments to the constitution. The reforms will have to introduce a system of checks and balances. At the moment we can’t do without the post of president, but his power must be balanced by other governmental structures. The concept I have been defending since 2002 would see the president as head of state, commander-in-chief, the supreme political arbiter and guarantor of citizens’ rights and freedoms. But there will also be the government, formed from a parliamentary majority and accountable to parliament. In this case the executive branch would be divided: the president is responsible for national security and citizens’ constitutional rights, and the prime minister for questions relating to the economy. France is a good example. Parliament will also have to have control of the state budget and all the powers for parliamentary enquiries. This is where the balance comes in. There is a strong president, a government with its head, appointed by, and accountable to, parliament. Parliament is strong and the judiciary independent.

YY: Do you have a written programme?

MBK: I do, though I don’t think one has to have everything written down in minute detail. No ready-prepared model will be of much use at a round table discussion, as it will be about principles. We can argue about the detail, but the presidential power must be balanced by other branches of power, and the government must be appointed by parliament, which also has to have robust powers of control over the state budget. We can discuss the procedure for, say, removing or appointing a minister of internal affairs, but it must be done by parliament – not like now, when parliament simply rubber stamps the candidates proposed by the president.

A very detailed discussion will be impossible with seven, eight, nine or fifteen people round the table. We shall be agreeing questions of principle and then the experts will enshrine everything in legal language. The first fundamental principle is the division of powers. The second is maximum powers and accountability for local authorities, which are but one step away from the voters.

Another question of principle is the reinforcement of powers for the opposition. I am very impressed with how this works in Britain: “you govern, we monitor.” This is why all the State Duma standing committees must be headed up by the opposition, which has to have a strong voice in all of them.

YY: Will it be essential to devolve power to the regions during the transition?

MBK: Yes, this is crucial. As things stand now, the federal centre takes money from the regions. If you want to get it back, you have to put forward a ‘suitable’ candidate and there’s no question of free and fair elections. This is essential and could be done quite quickly. The whole of Europe functions on this principle. In Russia we took this approach on board under Yeltsin, but didn’t put it into practice for obvious reasons: if a governor has money, what leverage do I have to demand voting for a particular candidate?

YY: Do you think this can be done in two years?

MBK: I am absolutely convinced that two years is enough – not too short, nor too long either. You can’t keep a country dangling for a lengthy transition period. The government during this period will not be fully legitimate: it will have been delegated powers by a round table for one purpose only, to hold free and fair elections. Experience tells us that two years is the limit of the period people are prepared to trust you for. No longer.

YY: Would you say that a transition government would be a soft dictatorship?

MBK: I wouldn’t call it a dictatorship, just another kind of power.

YY: And what about parliament during this time?

MBK: It would be better for parliament to take part in the process, but I can see also that we might have to dissolve it. It’s important to understand the lie behind the statement that the current parliament was elected by the people. It was elected by one man and if, instead of one man, there were to be a round table of 15 people with powers delegated by significant public institutions, then that has to be better than one, though not as good as 100 million voters.

YY: Who would ratify the changes to the Constitution?

MBK: It has to be the round table.

YY: Would this not be a catastrophe waiting to happen? Afterwards there could be complaints that the new constitution had been cobbled together by some round table or other.

MBK: When we say round table we mean a constitutional conference. The constitution is not a piece of paper ratified by someone, but an agreement between people prepared to stand up for their interests. I’m afraid that doesn’t sound too good now, but there is a good definition: a constitution is an agreement between armed men and women. If you have the right to join the round table (granted to you by the people supporting you), then declare it and sit down. If you have nothing to declare, then there’s no place for you. A constitution is just that.

YY: Yes, well, in America the founding fathers sat down and wrote the constitution and the country lives quite happily by it.

MBK: Absolutely. At the end of the day, if the necessity to reconsider it should arise after free and fair elections, then that would be possible. The conference of important political forces is the main basis for a country’s government. The rules are laid down by people, backed up by their supporters, who are prepared to defend these rules of life with weapons in their hands.

“The conference of important political forces is the main basis for a country’s government”

YY: A logical formula, but we live in Russia and we don’t have any ‘armed men and women.’

MBK: They don’t have to be armed with machine guns. Putin has said that he would have liked to talk to Gandhi, but now there is no one with whom he can have a proper conversation. Gandhi proposed non-violent resistance, which is terrible for those who use it, but effective. It’s very difficult to come to terms with giving up the bitter human joy of killing in return when you are being killed. Non-violent protest is when you allow yourself to be killed. Our country is in some way quite like India: we have people who in certain circumstances are prepared to stand up and be counted, till the very end. You have to see that this is how constitutions come into being and are adopted.

YY: I still think your revolutionary rhetoric could well turn away potential supporters. Perhaps you need to find other words? Changes, a change of government … the word ‘revolution’ sounds bad in Russian.

MBK: There are several possible scenarios for Russia’s development, including changes initiated by this government. After all, Gorbachov brought reform to the Soviet Union. Hardly bloodless as hundreds of thousands perished, as we know, although not in Moscow …

YY: Georgia, the Baltic states …

“The more likely scenario is that the lack of food in the fridge will triumph over TV propaganda”

MBK: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – all parts of the former Soviet Union. But it was still a relatively bloodless change of government and there’s no saying that it wouldn’t be the same again. Then my contribution will be modest. There’s Kudrin, Medvedev and others. But, unfortunately, every extra day with Putin in power makes this version less likely. The more likely scenario is that the lack of food in the fridge will triumph over TV propaganda, so those people will be asked, “and who exactly are you?”  Then the change of government will be a much rougher ride, and Navalny or I will be needed. This doesn’t mean I like it, I should be glad if Putin were to get up tomorrow, like Deng Xiaoping, and say, “I’m leaving …”  But I don’t believe this will happen, so at some point he will disappear and be replaced by one of the circle of thugs he keeps round him – it’s unlikely that any of the moderates will be able to seize power in this situation. Then it will all kick off …

YY: So the transition government will only be needed if there is a revolutionary situation?

MBK: It will be needed anyway, but it could be put together by, say, Medvedev. He has all the tools for bringing in the changes needed for fair and free elections. But if it’s unclear how best to do it, then the situation will be a great deal more difficult to sort out.

YY: To return to the round table or constitutional council, do you have any view as to how the votes might pan out?

MBK: The round table will be made up of people with the support of their followers who have demonstrated in the street. Many people don’t yet understand that at this time the view of the passive majority will play no part at all.

YY: So it’s the active part of society, which will decide Russia’s fate? This will obviously be divided into unequal interest groups. One leader might have 3 million people and another 500,000.

MBK: But this doesn’t mean that the first will have six votes and the second only one. If 500,000 people are prepared …

YY: … to die at the Kremlin walls

MBK: Even 500,000 will be enough to turn the country upside down. That’s why in a revolutionary situation the voices of those who stay on their sofas will have no importance. If 500,000 turn out on the streets, then it’s they who will decide the question of the government. A revolutionary situation is inevitable because this president is pig-headedly leading us towards it. The opinion of the majority and each individual voice will be important when we get to free and fair elections.

“A revolutionary situation is inevitable because this president is pig-headedly leading us towards it”

YY: So we shall not be able to manage without revolution, although we’d very much like to?

MBK: I wouldn’t get hung up on revolution being the worst possible scenario, it’s only a departure from an existing legislative framework. But who am I to stop my fellow countrymen from living well while there is a chance? If oil prices and reserves and a misunderstanding of what normal life actually could be, mean that people can live a more or less acceptable life, then that’s OK. I just know that tomorrow they’ll realise that their life is appalling and could be a great deal better, but …  not with this government!

YY: To move forward we have to be able to make sense of what has happened in Russia during recent years. Do you not think the country left the path towards democratisation in 1996, when a Communist victory was averted, which allowed Yeltsin to consolidate his grip on power?

MBK: I think the mistake was earlier, in 1993. The flawed logic was already in operation by 1996.

YY: The 1993 crisis was caused by the deputies’ refusal to pass the laws needed to bring in reforms. This could happen again. What would you do in this case?

MBK: The first, and main, problem at that point was the relationship with society. It wasn’t that the Gaidar government had taken wrong decisions, although there had been mistakes, which is why I split with them. The real problem was that they were unable to explain to people what they were doing and failed to understand the importance of communication. It would be important to avoid another such crisis. This is why we need the round table, why I am against one authoritarian opposition leader. But if there were to be another confrontation of this kind, we would have to acknowledge our mistake and hold elections.

YY: So we simply ‘reset’ the situation, without any shots being fired at the White House?

MBK: Yes, and we announce early (simultaneous) elections for parliament and the president. I’m sure that what I am doing is right, but if I am unable to defend my position, I appeal to the people for support. There’s one more important thing: if there is a tense situation and people have started acting outside the law – I don’t mean deputies in parliament, but people who organise disturbances in the streets of Moscow – then reaction has to be swift. We can’t spend too long thinking, as Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] did. Then the gunmen should have been taken off the streets in any way possible. If I can’t resolve the situation peacefully, then I declare a state of emergency and give the order to fire on people running around the city, bearing arms. But not on parliament.

YY: Then there was 1996. We were very afraid the Communists would come back and it seemed right to do whatever was needed to leave the democrats in power. This was a mistake?

MBK: It was, and we should draw the right conclusions from that lesson: democratic principles are a constant, even if from close by it seems that the result is going to be the wrong one. If Zyuganov had become president then, [the financial crisis of] 1998 would have happened on his watch, the Communists would never again have got into government and the country would have continued along the democratic path. But that was not possible at the time. I deeply respect Boris Nikolayevich, but from that point of view he was an authoritarian. For him it wasn’t a question of giving up power or not, but simply of how he could manage to hold on to it. There was the famous ‘Letter of the 13’, when we suggested to Yeltsin that he should come to a power-sharing agreement with Zyuganov: he would continue as president with Zyuganov as prime minister. But Yeltsin did not agree. Barsukov and Korzhakov [FSB director and the head of the president’s security service, Ed.] suggested declaring a state of emergency, banning the Communist Party and deferring the election i.e. establishing a dictatorship. Our counter-proposal was to hold the elections and win. Then Korzhakov told me that if Yeltsin didn’t agree, I would be taken from his study to Lefortovo Prison. We promised Yeltsin victory and dissuaded him from declaring a state of emergency.

YY: It’s very important to have realistic guarantees that a president elected in a free and fair election would not be able to do anything like that.

MBK: I am one of the few people of active political age who knows what happened, what our mistakes were and how to do it differently, which is why I am just the person needed for the transition period. I have no plans to continue after free and fair elections, when orderly government has been established.  That’s not for me.

“I have no plans to continue after free and fair elections, when orderly government has been established”

YY: You say that currently the most important objective is to put together a team of people with experience in political communication that would support reform. What kind of people are they?

MBK: Ordinary political leaders. In a normal country the person in charge is not ‘The Leader,’ but a communicator. He looks at opinions garnered from that segment of society he wants to represent and defends them in negotiations with representatives of other segments. He works in both directions and society thus becomes interconnected, ready to work together. For this we need people with experience in targeted communication i.e. related to political issues, rather than football. If, for instance, people living in one part of a city want to preserve a square, but this conflicts with the interests of another group of people, the situation will have to be sorted. This kind of experience can only be gained in practice, meeting the elderly and the working people – talking, listening and explaining.

YK: In the work you have done hitherto, education and enlightenment have been very strongly represented. What is your aim in undertaking this kind of work?

MBK: We cannot, and are not intending to, try and educate the masses. The education programme is part of our goal of selecting people who will be capable of transforming society during the transition period; from the basics to the more complex, from the attempt to understand how society works to practicalities such as the role of campaigners and observers for the elections. The main objective is to find people who will take part in the future in the transformation of Russia, the key words here being “take part.” This is why we ask people to register on the site. Many are afraid. But, guys, if you’re scared of even registering, then you are not what we are looking for. You are part of the masses. We want to interact with people who are not paralysed by fear.

“The main objective is to find people who will take part in the future in the transformation of Russia”

YY: Will you be asking your ‘communicators’ to engage in propaganda for the ideas of democracy?

MBK: The mass voter is not yet ready for generalisations. The state of political education in Russia is currently stuck somewhere at the end of the 19th century. People want the problems of everyday life solved: what should be done with tariffs, local council officials who don’t listen to them, or how to address ecological problems in a particular region. They will not grasp that, until Russia has changed, the solution for these problems can only come from within the system.

YY: Your alliance with Yevgeny Chichvarkin came as a surprise to many.  On what is it based?

MBK: We have differing views on many subjects – he is a libertarian and I believe in a strong state. But I enjoy arguing with him.

YY: What do you mean by ‘believing in a strong state’?

MBK: Essentially the state is a service provider in those areas where society cannot act independently. This gives rise to the question as to what proportion of these services the state ought to take on itself. I say it should be a very large proportion. Russian society has as yet little experience of self-organisation or social self-service. This means that the proportion of the wealth collected and re-distributed by the state should be no less than 40%. I do not think it necessary to manage people’s incomes – in this respect I am no social democrat – but I do think that Russia today needs a strong state. The role of the state will be gradually reduced as society learns to cope on its own, but this will be in 5-10 years. Before that everything will have to be done by the officials, which is not the most brilliant solution but will work somehow. Businesses and public organisations will gradually edge the state out of these areas.

YY: At the May press conference you said that Chichvarkin’s role in Open Russia would be to do with the brand.

MBK: Yes, one of his objectives is to deliver our ideas to society. Political marketing, if you will. I regard his work in the area as very important.

YY: What is appealing here is that people of different convictions and styles are working together.

MBK: This is the main point I am trying to make. Democracy is not the power of the majority, as Putin asserts, but a way of ensuring that minorities and people with differing views can co-exist.

YY: Yevgeny Chichvarkin expressed his scorn for the “have-nots” on Facebook. This refers back to utterances by Maria Baronova, whose candidacy for the Duma you supported. It quite takes one’s breath away. These people are regarded as members of your team and their views are associated with Open Russia and with you personally. Does this not worry you?

MBK: Of course it does. I don’t want people to associate me with views I do not share. But I find it difficult to see that normal people would associate the rector of an institute with what goes on in the student hostel.

YY: But they do …

MBK: I can only say that they should be ashamed of themselves. I am more relaxed about this than many others. If we are putting together a team of experts to build an aeroplane, we have to include some young people and they will probably be talking about revolution … and about bikinis. So there will be strange goings-on in the hostel, but in a few years these young people will be able to help us build our plane. If the team were to be made up of pensioners, the ideas would be weighed up and well thought through, but the plane wouldn’t get built.

YY: How is your ‘revolutionary organisation’ structured?

MBK: Well, I wouldn’t call it that. While we are more or less allowed to engage in politics, there is no sense in being an underground (or semi-underground) organisation, though I can see that this might easily happen in the future. If tomorrow Sechin becomes head of the FSB, then we shall all have to go underground. Today there’s no need for it, so we are a social and political organisation.

“There is no sense in being an underground (or semi-underground) organisation”

The structure is very simple: projects, education, a think tank, human rights, a website… Everything we do feeds into the objectives we have set ourselves. For instance, when Pivovarov was sent to prison I had to see that the right people were quickly put on the case: for this we have a team, which has earned its spurs in very difficult situations. But I have no intention of setting up yet another general human rights organisation, as these already exist and we are on good terms with them.

At some point one or other of our areas of activity will come to the fore. At the moment it’s Open Elections, which is being supported by all the others, but when this project finishes, there will be another. We have a very small full-time staff – if we need a report prepared, then we have the people to do it. At the moment there are three project teams working simultaneously.

YY: What are your next steps?

MBK: If the Open Elections project is a success and people can show that they can interact with the voters, we shall move on to providing political support for them. We shall go on looking for, and finding, people in the course of other election campaigns, at regional and local levels too. Work on honing our vision of the future and informing society will also continue. In our view, people in Russia and the West are confused by Kremlin propaganda: they have to be shown that there is an alternative and that this is work we are prepared to take on.

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