Chess champion Kasparov freed from Russian jail

Former chess champion turned Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov was freed from jail on Thursday and warned that Russia is sliding toward dictatorship under President Vladimir Putin.

Kasparov complained that he had been denied access to a lawyer during the five days that he spent in a Moscow prison for taking part in an unauthorised rally at the weekend.

”This regime is entering a very dangerous phase that is turning it into a dictatorship,” Kasparov told journalists as he arrived at his Moscow apartment, minutes after his release from jail.

The former chess world champion who now leads The Other Russia coalition of opposition groups vowed to continue fighting Putin’s policies and accused him of resorting to fear and repression ahead of parliamentary elections on Sunday.

”I’m undeterred in my resolution to fight this regime,” said Kasparov, who was greeted by a few supporters standing in front of his home. ”Fear is the only chance this regime has to survive.”

The United States and European governments criticised Russian authorities for jailing Kasparov (44) on Saturday when police broke up an unauthorised anti-Putin demonstration in Moscow.

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was quoted by RIA news agency as saying that jailing Kasparov for five days was a ”disproportionate measure”.

About 200 people were detained the following day during protests in Saint Petersburg ahead of parliamentary elections that Putin’s United Russia party is set to win.

”Anybody has the right to see a lawyer; I was denied this right,” said Kasparov, who appeared fit. He said he had no complaints about ill treatment in prison.

But Kasparov added that police had warned him that he would face a more serious charge of inciting extremism if he again challenged authorities with his opposition activities.

The Other Russia coalition has announced plans to hold another demonstration on Monday, the day after the parliamentary vote.

The umbrella group is not fielding candidates in the elections to the State Duma lower house of Parliament, having failed to meet the strict requirements under electoral law to register as a party.

Kasparov, who was briefly detained and fined for taking part in another rally in April, urged opposition parties to unite ahead of the parliamentary vote.

”Things will become clearer after December 2 because Putin will have to make decisions,” he said. ”The presidential election could bring change.”

Putin is barred from running for a third term in the March presidential vote, but he has said that a strong victory by his party in the parliamentary vote will give him a mandate to retain some role in politics. — Sapa-AFP

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Ursula Hyzy
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