Home / News / World /  Garry Kasparov quits Russia

Moscow: Former chess champion and anti-Kremlin activist Garry Kasparov has said he is staying out of Russia over fears he could be put on trial, becoming the latest Russian intellectual to leave his home country amid the crackdown on the opposition.

Kasparov said in Switzerland he would not be returning to Moscow for the moment over fears he could be investigated for his role in protests against President Vladimir Putin in the last months.

His comments came after prominent liberal economist Sergei Guriyev stepped down from a number of posts and abruptly left for France last month over fears he could be arrested after being interrogated by investigators.

The departure of the economist raised fears of a new exodus of the intellectual elite from Putin’s Russia similar to the brain drain endured by the Soviet Union which lost some of its brightest minds.

“I kept travelling back and forth until late February when it became clear that I might be part of this ongoing investigation of the activities of the political protesters," Kasparov said on Tuesday at a news conference in Geneva.

“Right now, I have serious doubts that if I return to Moscow I may not be able to travel back. So for the time being I refrain from returning to Russia," Kasparov added.

The chess legend has in recent years become an impassioned campaigner against Putin and took part in some of the mass opposition street protests against his rule.

Ivan Tyutrin, a leading activist with the United Civil Front that Kasparov heads, told BBC Russian that investigators had wanted to question Kasparov over his role in May 2012 protests against Putin on the eve of his inauguration.

Kasparov had in April vehemently rejected speculation that he had left Russia, saying then “Russia is the only country in the world that I consider to be my home".

His announcement that he was not returning set of a wave of commentary on Russian social networks, with some bloggers accusing Kasparov of abandoning his homeland.

Kasparov on Thursday hit back with another statement, saying on his Facebook page: “Russia is my home even when I am not able to be there.

“Please, let no one doubt my commitment to the cause of a free and strong Russia, or doubt for one moment that I am working constantly to achieve that goal," Kasparov wrote.

Despite his astonishing achievement in dominating world chess in the 1980s and 1990s, the Baku-born Kasparov never won the hearts of a wide number of Russians and many were suspicious of his frequent absences abroad.

The exit of dissident writers, artists and scientists was a major blight for the Soviet Union ever since the Bolshevik revolution as great figures sought to persue careers elsewhere.

The country lost countless figures of historic importance including the novelist Vladimir Nabokov, the poet Joseph Brodsky and the dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov who all forged major careers in the United States.

The departure of Guriyev, who headed the Russian Economic School and commanded almost universal admiration, was greeted with dismay and concern even from some figures close to the Kremlin.

“If Sergei Guriyev does not return to Russia then this will damage Russian economics and Russian civil society," said former finance minister Alexei Kudrin who remains close to Putin.

The head of Russia’s biggest lender, state-owned Sberbank, said it was “bad" when economists of Guriyev’s class left Russia. “I very much hope that we have not lost him," said German Gref.

In his comments in Geneva, Kasparov predicted that the circumstances would change that would allow him to return to Russia.

“The good news is that the latest events in the last few years prove that dictators also can fall out of favour of their people all of a sudden."

“If any dictator thinks that he can avoid this fate, I’m sure he’s gravely mistaken," he said. AFP

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