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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cowardly Neo-Soviet Union Jails Kasparov Opposition

The Moscow Times reports that the malignant Neo-Soviet Union is up to its old evil tricks, arresting opposition politicians as its only means of carrying on political discussion:

A Different Russia, an opposition movement led by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, said that about 20 of its members have been detained, beaten, or mysteriously fallen ill on their way to a conference in Moscow.

"The number is growing by the hour," Kasparov told a news conference in the Russian capital today. He said some had been taken off planes and trains while trying to get to Moscow where the two-day conference starts tomorrow, while others were detained by security forces, and in some cases beaten up.

The packed news conference was held in a sweltering, airless room with no sound system. "We knew the hall wouldn't be big enough, but unfortunately we've come up against the realities of Russian life," Kasparov said. He said the organizers had failed to find a hotel or other public space willing to accommodate the group in a bigger space.

President Vladimir Putin's administration has been accused by top U.S. officials, including President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, of "backsliding" on democracy. Kasparov said the detention of A Different Russia's members was "the best demonstration" of human rights violations in Putin's Russia. "It's already, in principle, extremism," he said.

A Different Russia is holding its conference shortly before a summit of the Group of Eight, hosted for the first time by Russia starting Saturday.

A Different Russia has invited politicians from all G8 members, and said in a statement that assistant U.S. secretary of state for European affairs Daniel Fried will attend, among other foreign visitors. Kasparov told journalists that Putin's Deputy Chief of Staff Igor Shuvalov has said the Kremlin would regard foreign attendance of the conference as "an unfriendly act" -- Kasparov also thanked Shuvalov for the publicity he generated for his group.

Writing in The New York Times today, Kasparov called on the other G8 leaders to take a tougher stand on Russia. "Opposition activists and journalists are routinely arrested and interrogated. The Kremlin, in complete control of the judiciary, loots private businesses and then uses state-controlled companies to launder the money abroad," he wrote. "It's high time to stop pretending the Kremlin shares the free world's interests."

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