'You must take a stand or leave the place'

4/10/2004 – Garry Kasparov is not holding back. In a recent 11-minute interview with CBC television he talked very forcefully about the current political situation in Russia. "Within a few years Russia will be fully authoritarian state with elections just being called for the sake of the rest of the world," he says. Here's a transcript of the interview.

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Garry Kasparov: Checking Vladimir Putin

CBC News Online | March 15, 2004

Reporter: Dan Bjarnason | Producer: Alex Shprintsen

Vladimir Putin is Russia's no-nonsense, ruthless strongman, ever eager to apply blunt force to any problem. Garry Kasparov is the chess champion, whose quiet strength springs from careful manoeuvring and probing for weakness. "We have to recognize that today Russia is, in effect, a police state. And the situation's getting worse," Kasparov says. "Russia is moving backward, or to a sideline. And it seems to me that within a few years, it will be fully authoritarian state with elections just being called for the sake of the rest of the world, just to show window of democracy, while the country will be under severe KGB control.

"I don't want my son to grow up in such atmosphere, and I believe that… and I believe it all the time, that there is a moment for a person, who has certain substance and importance and is known across the land, to take a stand. Or, just to leave the place."

"The same people who complain about restrictions, continue to criticize the president in a very strong way," counters Putin. "I don't know if your colleagues in Canada do the same. I'm not sure, but here they do. This is the main indicator that nobody restricts the press. Everybody says what they feel like saying. I assure you, there's no threat of dismantlement of democratic structures that have been built over the past 10 years."

Putin appears to be very popular and won the elections some weeks ago in a landslide. "We know that this election shows that the entire state machinery, the state controlled press, is promoting Putin day and night," Kasparov says. "Putin's popularity is a sort of enigma. How do we know he's popular or he's not popular? I mean the man never contested any fair elections. He never was a part of television debate. He never expressed his views. He was always presented as the head of the state, a czar, a president, whoever. A person that was not even part of our world, you know."

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