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Liberal party starts campaign against Russia’s counterterrorism operation in Syria

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Liberal opposition party Yabloko plans to start collecting signatures for a petition against Russia’s involvement in any armed conflicts in foreign nations, including the counterterrorism operation in Syria, citing the high cost as the main reason.

Popular business daily Kommersant reported on Wednesday that Yabloko planned to start the month-long campaign against what they call “foreign policy adventures” in 40 Russian regions on Friday this week. The launch of the petition will also serve as the start of Yabloko founder Grigory Yavlinskiy’s presidential campaign.

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Deputy Chairman of the Yabloko Party Nikolai Rybakov said that he and his comrades consider military and counterterrorism operations abroad to be too expensive. Once they are ended, the money saved could be spent on the internal development of the country. He stated that each day of the Russian Air Force operation in Syria costs over a billion rubles (over $17.5 million).

Rybakov went on to say that Yabloko activists would present detailed information “on how many schools, kindergartens, hospitals, homes, and roads could be built for this amount of money in each region.”

The party plans to collect signatures on its website, but Rybakov said that they would accept signatures from anyone, not just party members.

Other opposition politicians have treated Yabloko’s initiative with caution. One of the secretaries of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, Sergey Obukhov, told reporters he thought it possible that part of Russian society would support the program with their signatures, though he does not expect it to be very much. Leonid Slutskiy of the populist nationalist party LDPR said that Yabloko has attempted to attract voters with pacifist slogans from the beginning of their existence, but this has only resulted in diminishing public support. “Not a single region will support their new populist move,” Slutskiy noted.

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Yabloko prioritized the anti-war agenda in its parliamentary campaign of 2016, and offered voters “an alternative concept of patriotism” based on security, prosperity, and respect for citizens. The party failed to win a single seat in Russia’s 450-seat Lower House. 

Grigory Yavlinskiy was among Yabloko’s three co-founders, and headed it until 2008. Yavlinskiy still remains in Yabloko’s political council and regularly represents the party at various events.

In 2015, he announced his intention to run in the 2018 presidential election, and Yabloko pledged support to its founder. They stated that Yavlinskiy was the perfect candidate for this as he was capable of uniting “all voters with democratic leanings.” Yavlinsky’s program was defined as opposition to the “Russian authoritarian and oligarchic economic and political system.”

Yavlinsky has twice run for president – in 1996 he got 7.4 percent of the votes, and in 2000, 5.8 percent. He also registered as a candidate in 2012, but the authorities removed his name after a large amount of supporters’ signatures provided by his headquarters were deemed invalid.

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