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Kasparov vows to check Putin
Question of the Day
TORONTO — Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who has become a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he fears for his safety but vows to keep pushing for democracy in the country.
In a speech last week to the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto, Mr. Kasparov said he must overcome those fears to continue his opposition work as leader of the United Civil Front, a social movement that is part of an opposition coalition called Other Russia.
"I'm a human being," said Mr. Kasparov. "I have my own fears for myself — for my physical safety — for loved ones."
"As one of the leaders of Russian opposition, I cannot separate myself from the risks that are carried by anybody in Russia who is fighting and opposing Putin's regime."
Other Russia, led by Mr. Kasparov, is a coalition of small groups ranging from liberals to communists who oppose Mr. Putin and say the president is destroying Russia's fledgling democracy.
"Russia today is a police state masquerading as a democracy — a mask worn for the international community," he said. "We ask that the leaders of the free world stop providing Putin with democratic credentials. We ask for an end of hypocrisy."
Earlier this month, Mr. Kasparov criticized President Bush and Group of Eight leaders for giving Mr. Putin a platform to present himself as a leader of the free world.
Mr. Kasparov had singled out Mr. Bush for failing to press the Russian president hard enough on democratic backsliding and for the U.S. president's public show of friendship with Mr. Putin.
The West should continue to do business with Russia, but with the same political caution it shows toward China, Mr. Kasparov said.
"Canada and the United States and Europe are doing a lot of business with China but nobody is rushing to call Chinese leaders democrats," he said.
He added that Other Russia would work to implement political reform, reduce the power of the presidential office, restore institutions such as the judiciary and police, and give back power from the Kremlin to Russia's regions.
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