22 Nov 2019 22:34

Putin didn't plan to be president for 19 years - Yumashev

YEKATERINBURG. Nov 22 (Interfax) - Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to leave the presidential office in 2024, Valentin Yumashev, a former chief of the Presidential Executive Office, said on Friday.

"I think if you ask Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] today, he is 99% sure to say that he will leave in 2024," Yumashev said in taking questions from the audience following a public interview on 'Why Boris Yeltsin Chose Vladimir Putin' to journalist Vladimir Pozner in Yekaterinburg on Friday.

Yumashev presumed that Putin did not originally plan to be in power for so long. "I am 100% sure about this [...], when Putin came on December 31 [in 1999], he was sure it was going to be only one term at best, and if two terms, he would be the happiest man in the world to be able to take a rest as he wanted upon the expiration of the second term. [...] Surely, he didn't plan to be in power for 19 years," he said.

Yumashev admitted in the interview to Pozner that he asked himself from time to time whether Boris Yeltsin had ever regretted his decision to make Putin his successor, but never asked Yeltsin about this.

"I am sure Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] didn't even have this question during [Putin's] first term. Because the things and the reforms that were accomplished were absolutely crucial for a liberal Russia, for a democratic Russia, and for reforming Russia. The Budget Code, the Tax Code, the things that Yeltsin was unable to get through the Duma were adopted precisely during Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin's] first term. In fact, the movement toward capitalism and toward a market economy was cemented precisely during Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's first term," Yumashev said.

"Of course, Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] was worried about some things and believed that something was done incorrectly," he said.

"However, he met with Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] quite often. First, they met perhaps once a month. Then slightly less frequently, once every quarter. Then only on holidays - that's during the second term. But anyway, there were such meetings [...] They locked themselves up and had one-on-one conversations [...] Of course, Yeltsin understood that Putin would act the way he saw right," Yumashev said.

Talking about the media's work in Russia, Yumashev said that, in the late 1990s, "Yeltsin confronted an absolutely brilliant machine led by [Vladimir] Gusinsky's media empire," which sought "to discredit the president, so automatically discrediting his candidate."

"It's well understandable that Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] took this hard inside himself, but he didn't show that. But, in my view, this was a perfect lesson for Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] that our media outlets can absolutely easily falsify [...] the life of the president and his loved ones in pursuing their own agenda," he said.

He, however, said he was sure that the media should be free and Russia would have free media one day.

"I believe that, definitely, a country should have independent media, and there can be no doubt that, in the end, we will return to the times when we would probably have one state-owned channel, and the other channels would have private owners, who would analyze current events in their own way," Yumashev said.

Valentin Yumashev, the husband of Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Yumasheva (Dyachenko), served as chief of the Presidential Executive Office in 1997-1998. He has been among the founders of Boris Yeltsin Foundation since 2000. In summer 2018, he was appointed a pro bono presidential advisor. Yumashev's interview to Pozner was the first event of the Words and Music of Freedom Festival at the Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg.