MOSCOW, June 6 (RIA Novosti) – Former chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov has said he will not come back to Russia because his freedom to subsequently leave the country could be curtailed.
Kasparov’s announcement comes less than a week after prominent economist Sergei Guriev fled Russia, fearing arrest for his work on a report heavily criticizing the jailing of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
“Right now I have serious doubts that if I return to Moscow I will be able to travel back.” Kasparov told a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday that was held ahead of his receipt of a human rights award from the United Nations. “For the time being I refrain from returning to Russia.”
Kasparov linked the risk of his detention with an investigation into the actions of protestors who clashed with police on the eve of Putin’s presidential inauguration last year; a case which the opposition insists is politically motivated.
“I kept travelling back and forth until late February when it became clear that I might be a part of these ongoing investigations into the activities of political protestors,” Kasparov said, according to an audio recording posted on his personal website.
The admission comes less than a month after Kasparov denied rumors he had left Russia for good. In an April 7 article refuting such claims, Kasparov quoted a line from Russian singer Vladimir Vysotsky: “Don’t worry, I haven’t left/And don’t get your hopes up, I won’t leave!”
Kasparov was allegedly beaten by police after being detained last August outside the Moscow court room where feminist band Pussy Riot were sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk prayer.”
Kasparov’s appearances in Russia have become less frequent in recent years as he concentrates his efforts on lobbying for the Russian opposition abroad.
“The Russian police have been used extensively to fight political activists,” he said on Wednesday. “Over the last 18 months we have seen a transition from an authoritarian style, to a one-man dictatorship.”