Kasparov's risky moves provoke the Kremlin

4/22/2007 – After organising two protest rallies and getting arrested and fined former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was interrogated by prosecutors of Russia's main security agency. That and dozens of interviews given by the leader of the opposition group has led to another slew of report in the world media outlets – including the eerily hysterical "Putin Diary". We bring you excerpts.

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Personal Opinions

"Chess yes, politics no," writes P. Rail of Texas, USA, and another, George Simon of Lodi, NJ, makes the astonishing claim: "The world does not care if Mr. Kasparov even exists – unfortunately, nobody but devout chess players know the name of Kasparov." The world does care and knows his name – there are over 2000 articles in mainstream newspapers from every corner of the globe, in the last week or so. When driving in a car in Germany we hear on radio that "the head of the Russian opposition" is planning a new rally in Saint Petersburg; in the evening on TV we catch reports in the main national news on the subject. And "P. Rail": don't you think it would be strange, in view of this massive coverage in all the international media, that a chess news page would decide to ignore the subject of a former world chess champion turning into the main political adversary of the president of the second greatest power in the world? Absolutely not.

We would also like to mention that we are being spammed with negative comments on Kasparov's activities, from addresses all over the world, with unusual names and similar orthography and style. Surely the Russian authorities and the FSB are not behind this, surely they have better things to do than to try to influence a chess news page. We have ignored most of these messages in our Readers' Feedback section at the bottom of this page.

But first to the most recent newspaper articles. Click on the headline to get the full story.

News reports

Washington Post : Kasparov Accuses Russian Police of Abuse
Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion who is one of the Kremlin's most visible critics, accused Russian police of "brutality and cruelty'' for their crackdown against anti-government demonstrations last weekend. Kasparov met with prosecutors he said had summoned him after a lawmaker's demand for an inquiry into whether police acted illegally when they took him into custody him during a Moscow protest on April 14. After four hours of questioning from investigators with Russia's main security agency Friday, Kasparov suggested law enforcement authorities were being pressed by the Kremlin to find evidence of extremism in his actions and words. He said the investigators asked him about statements he made to a radio station and articles in a newspaper published by his group, the United Civil Front, ahead of last weekend's protests. [Photo AP]

Chicago Tribune: Opposing Putin, Kasparov's moves increasingly risky
Garry Kasparov answered his cell phone in an elevator Friday afternoon, and his expression froze. The 44-year-old chess grandmaster, locked in the political match of his life with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was told that prosecutors had instructed him to come in on Saturday. "It's getting dangerous," he said as his driver weaved through Moscow traffic. "We have to be careful." An aide, Marina Litvinovich, later said prosecutors probably weren't preparing criminal charges. But the call was a chilling reminder of the risks he faces.

New York Times: 50% Good News Is the Bad News in Russian Radio
At their first meeting with journalists since taking over Russia’s largest independent radio news network, the managers had startling news of their own: from now on, they said, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be “positive.” ... On Friday, the Federal Security Service, a successor agency to the K.G.B., questioned Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion and opposition politician, for four hours regarding an interview he had given on the Echo of Moscow radio station. Prosecutors have accused Mr. Kasparov of expressing extremist views.

Herald Tribune: Russian rights activist detained
A human rights activist said he and another four people were detained Sunday near a central Moscow street where police had beaten demonstrators during an opposition protest a week ago. The detentions came as activists and Kremlin opponents sought to mount a quiet challenge to authorities after crackdowns on opponents the previous weekend by visiting sites where police beat protesters and bystanders.

Times of India: Kasparov questioned by officials
Garry Kasparov, a chess superstar locked in the political match of his life against President Vladimir Putin, was called in for four hours of questioning by Russian security agents and ordered to see prosecutors on Saturday. The 44-year-old grandmaster's aggressive style on the chessboard and his refusal to settle for a draw earned him a series of world championships. But he is aware that a blunder in this struggle could cost him dearly. "They have no hook to proceed with criminal charges, but today in Russia, we know that nobody is safe," Kasparov said on Friday.

Daily Times, Pakistan: Kasparov questioned over ‘extremism’
“I think it is an important moment in Russia’s political and public life and its jurisprudence because it’s an obvious attempt to make any kind of political activity the subject of criminal law,” Kasparov said as he approached the FSB building in central Moscow. “The prosecutors are trying, through the FSB, to detect traces of criminal acts in critical remarks about the authorities,” he said.

Guardian: Kasparov Summoned by Russian Prosecutor
Kasparov sounded concerned after hearing he had been summoned by prosecutors. "They might be disappointed by the results of today's interrogation,'' he told The Associated Press in an interview. "Obviously they are under intense pressure from the Kremlin.'' Around 2 p.m. Friday, Kasparov emerged from questioning by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, and told reporters that authorities were trying to decide whether to charge him with political extremism. "They were looking for some extremist statements or signs of extremist activities,'' Kasparov said, appearing confident after spending about four hours at an office of the FSB, the main successor of the Soviet-era KGB secret police. He called investigators' suspicions "totally groundless.''

China Post: Kasparov lashes out over police action
"There was only one extremist on the streets of Moscow on April 14 and that was the government and its law enforcement officers," Kasparov told reporters outside the prosecutor's office where he met with investigators. Interior Ministry spokesman Valery Gribakin said Saturday that the actions of law enforcement authorities were being "thoroughly studied and analyzed," but added that the same was true for the protesters and contended that police were provoked. "We truly regret if any innocent civilians and journalists became victims of provocateurs," Gribakin told a news conference. According to the ITAR-Tass news agency, he said police "did everything possible to provide security and acted adequately to the situation that developed." Kasparov disputed those claims. "All the police claims about acts of violence, of violation of some rules of law ... are totally false. It is a desperate attempt to cover up the brutality and cruelty of police officers," he said.

American Chronicle: Kasparov making wrong moves
The “Dissenters’ March”, as they are called, was not authorized by the authorities, but the Kremlin deny this decision was made for political reasons. Traveling in the center of Moscow is difficult at the best of times, and a march of this size would have disrupted movement considerably. As Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov pointed out, the authorities were also concerned with public order. Whilst some may criticize the Kremlin, we should also question the motives of people like Gary Kasparov, the former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky. It is easy for some to be critical of Putin’s methods, but he does seem to have a genuine love for his country and a desire to see it become stronger and more successful. Perhaps other countries should follow Russia’s example in trying to reduce corruption, and controlling individuals who seek to become rich at the public and country’s expense.

Reuters: Russia says anti-Putin protesters faked injuries
Russia's Interior Ministry insisted on Saturday riot police had acted lawfully when they broke up opposition rallies and accused protesters of faking injuries. Police wielding batons beat, kicked and chased anti-Kremlin protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg last weekend, drawing sharp rebukes from Western governments and human rights groups. Germany, holder of the European Union presidency, earlier this week called the police action unacceptable and the United States expressed concern over what it called heavy-handed policing. Interior Ministry head of public relations Valery Gribakin said the protest organisers deliberately provoked the police and tried to draw the attention of the international media by marching in forbidden areas when they were offered and could have accepted legal, alternative venues. Reporters covering the protests saw police clubbing and arresting demonstrators, as well as some bystanders who happened to be in the area. Gribakin said anti-Putin protesters had faked their injuries and then posed for media interviews complaining about excessive use of force by the police. "Some provocateurs in advance prepared clothes marked with with red paint or ketchup, which they hid under their jackets or sweaters," he said. "Their job was to fall after a contact with police, crouch on the ground as if in pain, draw the attention of passers-by and the media," Gribakin said. Reuters reporters who covered the rallies said they did not see demonstrators faking blood with ketchup. A Reuters photographer was hit on the mouth during the protests, splitting his lip and causing bleeding.

National Post: Putin' Diary
MONDAY: The good news is there are no street protests today. I should think so, since the boys roughed up those hippies and layabouts pretty good on the weekend. But all they keep showing on TV today (the stations I don't control, anyway) is that clip of Garry Kasparov after they let him out of jail. "Russia is now somewhere between Belarus and Zimbabwe," he says. Whatever, Mr. Smart Guy Chess Hero. Talk to me when you figure out how to beat that IBM computer.

TUESDAY: OK, that's it. Kasparov was on the BBC calling me "Uncle Vlad" and "a balding, crazed tyrant who will stop at nothing until he crushes dissent under the boot of Putinism." I am NOT balding. Perhaps I shall call Nikita, my old KGB friend. He has some pollonium with your name on it, Mr. Chess Hero. Checkmate, Mr. Kasparov. Checkmate. (Diary, I am chuckling menacingly now. I wrote that down because you can't hear. Obviously. No ears, etc.)

WEDNESDAY: Nikita won't do it. Says he draws the line at a national hero. Fine time for scruples, I say. He says call the Iranians. Not a bad idea, actually. (Chuckling menacingly again.)


Readers' feedback

Mark Stark, Edmonton, Canada
Kasparov is a grand strategist. He knows that support for the movement will pick up steam when he draws enough of a reaction from Putin. Ultimately Kasparov is willing to become a martyr for the cause and one has to respect that. Maybe his current work is an extension of his artistic achievements over-the-board in the way great artists create a vision that transcends the mundane. Putin has a thorn in his side, that's for sure.

Didier Dachermann, Wolfratshausen, Germany
It might be an idea to support Kasparov in some way, e.g. an on-line petition or sending emails. Would ChessBase do that or give some links? Democracy is a basic principle of FIDE, therefore they are strong reasons for ChessBase to support Kasparov. We could simply point out that freedom of association and expression is a human right. If we do nothing we might hear bad news. Doing nothing is also doing politics. If ChessBase does not bring some support to Kasparov, then who will?

John Miller, USA
It's a shame Kasparov got into politics. He's a pawn of the West and sold his soul for money. Read the following good article: Stop publishing the outrage to Kasparov arrest press reports, they are all fabricated, it's normal Kasparov got arrested for violating the laws of his country. One of these days he'll get himself killed and nobody will be sorry for him.

P. Rail, Texas, USA
Please! I beg you! I have heard enough about Kasparov's need for glory and attention. His days are over. I want your site to once again be about chess alone. Unless you are talking about Kasparov's brilliant games I have no use for him. What's next? More silly rantings from Fischer? Please no. Chess yes. Politics no.

George Simon, Lodi, NJ, USA
Have you ever been to Russia? Do you know anything about Russia? Do you know anything about Mr. Kasparov's political views? The world does not care if Mr. Kasparov (who is anything but a Russian) even exists. Unfortunately, nobody but devout chess players know the name of Kasparov. Chess is not a popular sport, but liberalism is (for the media at least). I wish you would not be getting so political.

Petr Ivanov, Moscow, Russia
Kasparov is just taking money from the West to create chaos in Russia where otherwise everything is going well and most people are satisfied with the government. He perfectly knew the rules to conduct a demonstration, and he violated them on purpose just to get publicity and another $-check from the West.

Justin Michael Jenkins, Artist - Writer - Entrepreneur
Imaginative Pencil – see also this ChessBase article

Garry Kasparov’s commitment to excellence on the board through his determination, unmatched intensity, and knowledge of the game and it’s history portrayed a man who’s inner drive and ambitions would one day lead to other influential discoveries and endeavors. Now at age 44, Garry’s attributes that were long heralded in the chess world have now carried over into the streets of Russia where he can be seen wielding a bull horn and his words echoing the sentiments and desires deep within him that somehow are beginning to speak for the common people in Russia.

After a couple long years of beginning his journey into exposing the Russian Government, Grarry is now gaining popularity from all corners of Russia through his steadfast commitment to his strategy and opinion on matters than mean so much to the common people of the country. Through his deep understanding of the vastly unique governments of other nations and his connections with the United States, Garry has the best intentions from within his heart to make Russia the best possible environment for the people and overall government system.

We need more leaders and men like Gary to move the world in a much more stable, ethical, and democratic direction. Let us not just look up to the men and woman as superior as they are in their chosen professions, but what they bring to the table in terms of what is in their souls and spirits. Gary teaches us all to be courageous and remain true to our voice and visions regardless of the opposing force against us. To me that is what men and woman should strive for in the quest to make a difference and influence the world whether it be large or small. Gary Kasparov is more than a great chess player – he is someone who has an inner energy and drive to do what is right with the highest standards in whatever he seeks to accomplish.

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