Garry Kasparov detained, world leaders protest

by ChessBase
5/20/2007 – The former world chess champion and current leader of the Other Russia opposition group, together with dozens of journalists and activists, was prevented from attending the European Union-Russia summit in Samara, Russia. The incident has dominated the international press, and led to protests by amongst others German Chancellor Angela Merkel and, yes, M-Tel organiser Silvio Danailov.

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Kasparov on the May 18 Detention at Sheremetyevo

Other Russia leader Garry Kasparov provides the following statement on the events around the detention of dozens of people en route to Samara to attend the May 18 March of Dissent.

A large group of us were traveling from Moscow to Samara from Sheremetyevo 1 Airport. I had a group of people traveling with me and so did Eduard Limonov. The famous human rights leader Lev Ponomaryov was also with us. Then there was a group of journalists, including people from The Wall Street Journal, the Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, Reuters, and others. There were 27 of us. As soon as we arrived at the airport it was clear we were going to have trouble. For the first time in my long life of travel I faced a police major at the check-in desk! He had a long list of names and he worked down the list and confiscated our passports. He didn’t hesitate a second to take mine, then Limonov’s and Ponomaryov’s.

Then he said he wanted us to go somewhere, refusing to tell us why. The man who was addressing us was “Captain Adamov,” although it was obvious from the way he spoke and acted that he wasn’t a captain or a policeman. I called Karina Moskalenko and while I was on the phone with her, “Captain Adamov” commented, “she had a similar problem at Domodedovo [airport]!” I asked him if he worked there as well and he said no, that he’d read about her incident on the internet. I described him to Karina on the phone and she identified him exactly.

Several of our group already had boarding passes. Alexander Rykhlin, Sasha Osovtsov, and Marina Litvinovich left to try to board the plane. But a man in a black suit appeared and waved frantically for them to be intercepted and turned back.

We were stuck there in limbo, not arrested but not allowed to advance or retreat. 13 of us had no passports or tickets and could get no sensible comment from the authorities. We had a lawyer in our group and he also failed to get a statement of any kind. It’s amazing, these people don’t care at all about what laws they break. They have total immunity and know they can get away with anything. We tried to simply leave but our way was again blocked. I asked, “are we under arrest?” “No,” he said, “but you cannot leave the area.” We stayed in this de facto detention for five hours in the boarding area. The WSJ and Telegraph reporters were trapped along with us. The other 14 had passports and were allowed to leave but stayed and waited for us.

Finally, at 11:20am, they told us they were checking our tickets to see if they were counterfeit! They had all this paperwork and protocol to go through. It all ended at a quarter-past one. The last plane we could have taken to get to Samara in time for the march was at 1:30. The moment the gate closed, we were given back our passports and allowed to leave. We did not, however, receive any refund for our tickets! Perhaps the Putin police state is even more bankrupt than we thought.

The events in Samara prove that civilians are no longer in control in Russia. The security apparatus is in charge from the top to the bottom, from Putin to the streets. The mayor of Samara wasn’t in charge of his own town and all the papers he signed approving our march were worthless. Now we hear Putin at a press conference saying we don’t bother him at all, but that our protests must be organized under the law. But the Samara march was officially approved, and we weren’t even permitted to travel to the city hosting the event.

Around 500 people showed up in the streets of Samara despite the worst efforts of the security forces. United Civil Front executive director Denis Bilunov was arrested yet again, making it two days running. We have an inside joke that we wish Denis were half as dangerous as the authorities seem to believe he is. Today he and two activists, plus FOCUS correspondent Boris Reitschuster were picked up by a man in civilian clothes with Interior Ministry papers. The charge this time was “looking like potential terrorists.” They were released several hours later.

International press reactions

CNN: Anger as Russia protesters halted
A group of Russian political activists bound for an anti-Kremlin demonstration on the sidelines of a major Russia-European Union summit were prevented from traveling by Moscow airport officials, one of them told CNN. Members of political opposition parties, including former chess world champion Garry Kasparov, were among those whose passports and tickets were confiscated by Sheremetyevo Airport authorities as they were due to fly to the southeastern city of Samara. Speaking at a press conference following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced concerns over the incident, saying "I hope they will be given an opportunity to express their opinion."

NYT: Russia Detains Opposition Leaders Until They Miss a Protest
The detentions added a new element of frostiness to President Vladimir V. Putin’s meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other leaders of the European Union near the city, Samara. “Speaking frankly, I would like that those who today want to hold a demonstration in Samara would be able to express their opinion and have the chance to do so,” Mrs. Merkel said. Among those detained at a Moscow airport was Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion, who was on his way to the latest in a series of protests organized by Other Russia, a loose opposition coalition he leads.

Reuters: Merkel tackles Putin on democracy at frosty summit
The European Union snubbed Russian requests that the bloc rein in its eastern European members on Friday at a frosty summit that cooled ambitions for deeper EU-Russian ties. On the day chess champion and Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov was stopped from attending a protest near the meeting, a combative Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected concerns -- including from EU leaders -- that he was rolling back democracy. "What is pure democracy?" Putin asked a news conference at the summit venue, a holiday resort on the banks of the Volga river 1,000 km south-east of Moscow. "It is a question of ... whether you want to see the glass half full or half empty."

Times: Putin spy war on the West
At a European summit attended by Putin and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, traded barbs with Putin over Russia’s human rights record and complained that critics of the Kremlin, including Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion, were prevented from attending a protest march.

Washington Post: Pushback for Mr. Putin
Mr. Putin was clearly hoping that instead of defending their allies, Germany and France would blame them for causing trouble with Russia. Instead, at an E.U.-Russian summit in the Russian city of Samara yesterday, Western leaders stood up to the Russian bully. German Chancellor Angela Merkel then tartly reprimanded Mr. Putin for suppressing a demonstration by Russia's democratic opposition movement in Samara. "I hope they will be given an opportunity to express their opinion," she said of the dissidents led by former chess champion Garry Kasparov.

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M-Tel organiser Silvio Danailov has released the following letter of support:

M-Tel Masters supports
Garry Kasparov

M-Tel Masters is one of the strongest and most prestigious chess tournaments in the world. As the director of this important chess event I would like to declare my position regarding the latest in a series of unpleasant incidents with Garry Kasparov – his detention yesterday when he made an attempt to attend a protest of the opposition in Russia.

Garry Kasparov is one of the greatest players in chess history. He is a legend of this sport and has given a lot for its progress in Russia and worldwide. The rude treatment of him that we have recently seen is unacceptable and politics should not be a reason for a name like Kasparov to be violated and discredited and for his human rights of a big champion to be abused.

I believe that sport is one of the ways for bringing together people and nations all over the world and that every person has the right to express his beliefs in a peaceful manner.

I appeal to the whole chess community of the world to support Garry!

Silvio Danailov
Director of M-Tel Masters

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