Kasparov aims to put Putin in check

Former world chess champion wants to take back Russia from "corrupted bureaucracy".

    Kasparov, centre, says Putin has
    turned Russia into a police state [EPA]
    Garry Kasparov played a mammoth 78 games in two matches over a period of a year before he finally defeated Anatoly Karpov and became the youngest world chess champion ever in 1985.

    He is now aiming for an equally momentous achievement in his political career by attempting to help break Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia as he explained to Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull.

    Having retired from professional chess in 2005, Kasparov furthered a longstanding involvement with politics and established the United Civil front party, which he used to form a coalition of small disparate political parties entitled the Other Russia.

    With political partners such as the National Bolshevik Party and Worker's Russia, Other Russia's support is still in its formative stages. But Kasparov and the group's have big ambitions, including nominating a candidate for the Russian presidency in the elections of 2008, though he has ruled himself out of that role.

    Aims straightforward

    The 44-year-old says the Other Russia's aims are straightforward.

    "This is our country," Kasparov says. "We want to take our country back from the hands of the corrupted bureaucracy.

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    "And that includes everything, that includes political reform, free and fair elections, no censorship and of course full-scale control of ruling bureaucracy to cure this widespread corruption."

    The difficulties facing the new opposition movement were manifested during a demonstration it attempted to organise in Moscow on Saturday.

    Around 2,000 demonstrators were met by about 9,000 police offers and the gathering was unceremoniously disbanded. Several of the Other Russian leaders, including Kasparov, were arrested.

    Similar protests across the country have attracted similarly small numbers of demonstrators and similarly large numbers of police.

    But with much of the national media controlled by the state, taking to the streets is the Other Russia's main way of getting its message to the masses.

    "We are always preaching non-violent means of resistance," Kasparov says. "We believe we can by staying within the constitutional boundaries."

    "We are always pointing out that is not us but the government that is breaking constitutional articles, violating Russian law and acting like extremists."

    Tough opponent

    But being an extremist is something Kasaparov himself could be charged with as he is wanted by the Russian security agency that was formerly the KGB in Soviet times. Government allies regular refer to the Other Russia as radicals.

    Rubbing authorities the other way is something that Kasparov has perfected over the year's, however.

    He still alleges that his ultimately abandoned mammoth world chess championship match with Karpov in 1984 was done so partly to avoid the darling of the Soviet authorities being beaten.

    Opposition protests have been
    dealt with unceremoniously [AFP]

    And he was later famously ejected from FIDE, chess' world governing body, in 1993 after numerous spats prompted him to create a new organisation the Professional Chess Association.

    "I have no intention of hiding. I believe all these charges are without ground. Although I understand that in Putin's Russia criticism aimed at the government, especially aimed at Mr Putin, is considered as a form of extremism."

    Aware that prominent opponents of the government, such as the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, have met violent ends, Kasaprov says he is nervous.

    "I have no choice but to stand firm my ground because any sign of hesitation or weakness sends the wrong signal to thousands and thousands of our supporters across the country."

    "And I think I have to stand for all of them while of I course am getting nervous, recognising that no one is safe in Russia today, facing now new threats and so far I feel confident enough I can bear it.

    "All my life I have been trying not just to win a game of chess but also to make a difference."

    "I wanted to expand new horizons, come up with new ideas and make the real difference not only for me but also for the game I devoted my life to."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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