Interview with Viktor Linnik

Viktor Linnik, political analyst and Editor-in-Chief of the Slovo weekly newspaper, joined Russia Today together with RT political commentator Peter Lavelle to comment on the State Duma’s decision to approve Viktor Zubkov as Russian PM.

Russia Today: Where do we go from here now that Mr Zubkov has been appointed? What is first on his agenda as Prime Minister do you think?

Viktor Linnik: I think several things. Number one is that he will certainly stress the social agenda. Now that we are coming into the election campaign, first for Parliament, second for President. Number two is that he will certainly be stressing the question of fighting blatant corruption.

RT: Which was described as rust corroding the economy, wasn't it?

V.L.: Exactly right and I think nobody probably stands a better chance to accomplish that task than the new PM, given his past experience.

RT: According to his words, he basically said that corruption in the country should not be underestimated, it is that big a problem. How does he begin to stamp something like that out?

V.L.: I think we see actually some indications now even, because even the statistics that he does give us. In 2002 there were only two cases that his agency for financial monitoring produced and now it is 35,000 on an annual basis.

RT: It is also very interesting that he took Russia off the money-laundering list, the black list. It is very interesting. It seems to me that he is working internationally and now he is speaking in domestically, but it's the tip of the iceberg. At least he has the knowledge. If he will act on it, we will see.

V.L.: Absolutely. Another thing to be said is that if he does fight corruption and I think that he will, that is something he promises and we should take him at his word, I think he will gain enormous popularity.

RT: What sort of a Prime Minister do you think he is going to make for Russia? Should Russia be pleased this afternoon, this Friday?

V.L.: I think even the vote in the Duma tells us that Russians, by and large, are more pleased with this PM than with the previous one, because Mikhail Fradkov (former PM) in his nomination garnered 352 votes while Mr Zubkov got 381. That tells you a little about the mood in the country, definitely. And certainly what people like about him is that he is a guy that comes from the grass roots, so to speak.

RT: And is he going to grab the sentiments of 40 million underprivileged people?

V.L.: Exactly right. I think it is a starting point, 40 million people, but I think he will certainly extend that kind of experience, that kind of managerial skills to the rest of it.

RT: Is Zubkov looking for popularity?

V.L.: Any politician of his stature given the agenda that was put before him by the President certainly wants to be popular, not just personally but se wants his agenda to be popular with the electorate.

RT: Because popularity creates success

V.L.: Exactly right!

RT: Were you surprised when Zubkov was nominated?

V.L.: I was surprised by the fact there were no leaks. By and large it was a planned surprise.

RT: Will he stay in the Prime Minister's chair or will he be elected  President? Yesterday he said he does not rule out running for presidency.

V.L.: I think that is something which was discussed with the President previously, because statements of that kind will not come out just like that.

RT: But he did not say he has the support of Putin. Here is the difference between statements

V.L.: Putin is very much interested in this particular remark. I think it has been discussed with the president. This gives Putin a strong hand in keeping that kind of ambivalence and uncertainty as to who will be the next president, who will be his successor.

RT: We could see two, three or four frontrunners…

V.L.: None of the contenders known thus far has been  ruled out as yet. We could have another Zubkov. Putin wants to keep that kind of uncertainty up until very close to the election date.

RT: What about the composition of the Cabinet?

V.L.: Some of the persons you will certainly see leaving: number one, Zurabov, number two, Yakovlev. The economic bloc ministers Kudrin and Gref are under a big cloud regarding their chances of survival in the next cabinet. Also, Gordeyev is about to leave. But actually we will see the changes on the day they come.