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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Kasparov Speaks, Neo-Soviet Crackdown Continues Apace

The Moscow News reports that even though Garry Kasparov has been as quiet as a churchmouse in the aftermath of the recent spate of assasinations, the Kremlin has still launched another attack against him:

Russian police have seized propaganda materials from the office of the United People’s Front opposition group to check them for extremist content, the Interior Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. Ekho Moskvy radio said the materials are linked to the group’s plan to hold an unauthorized protest march December 16.

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, the leader of the United People’s Front, pointed out in comments for Ekho Moskvy that the search was conducted on Russian Constitution Day, December 12.

Denis Bilunov, executive director of the group, told RIA Novosti that policemen “seized several newspapers and other materials for inspection.”

Kasparov told Ekho Moskvy that his office had been raided by armed police officers on suspicion of “extremist activity”. About 20 agents, both from police ranks and the Federal Security Service (FSB), a KGB successor organization, arrived at the Moscow headquarters of Kasparov’s movement Tuesday afternoon, the youngest-ever World Chess Champion told Ekho Moskvy.

The officers demanded staffers turn off computers and mobile phones and took part of the party newspaper’s print run, according to a statement on Kasparov’s website, DPA reports. The search of Kasparov’s office ended after about 2 1/2 hours, the website statement said. It was unclear which court labelled Kasparov’s political activity extremist, or why.

Kasparov, world-famous as the reigning World Chess Champion from 1985 until his retirement in 2005, is one of the organizers of the banned March of the Unwilling. The event was to unite opposition groups, including that of former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. After banning the march, which had been scheduled for Saturday, Moscow authorities Tuesday gave its organizers permission to hold a stationary demonstration.

Co-organizer Eduard Limonov said he, Kasparov and Kasyanov vowed to hold the march nonetheless. Another march, planned to honour murdered journalists on Sunday, was also banned by Moscow authorities Tuesday, Ekho Moskvy reported.

Moscow City Hall told that march organizers that the event would “violate the constitutional right of non-participants” by taking up space on the street, the prominent liberal broadcaster said. The city instead suggested organizers hold a stationary vigil. The march had been planned for a worldwide day of memory for killed journalists. Russian investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in her apartment building in October; it is still unclear who her killers were.

According to Kasparov’s website, police officers arrived at his offices shortly after a United People’s Front member encouraged others at a party congress to meet at Kasparov’s headquarters. Police showed an order to search the offices in connection with “extremist activity,” Kasparov said.

An outspoken critic of the Russian government, Kasparov has faced physical attacks since retiring from chess, including being beaten over the head with a chess board during a demonstration last year.

The Moscow News also reports an even greater outrage -- the Kremlin has banned a public memorial procession for Anna Politkovskaya:

Moscow city hall denied permission to hold a march to commemorate journalists killed in Russia over the past years. The event was to take place next Sunday, the radio station Ekho Moskvy reports.

City officials said the action would disrupt car traffic and hinder access to certain locations in the city center for ordinary residents who will not participate in the procession, thus violating their constitutional rights.

The organizers of the march — a group of Moscow-based journalists — told Ekho the action was planned a civil action to pay tribute to journalists killed while doing their job or expressing their opinion.

The recent killing of Anna Politkovskaya in October encouraged them to hold the action, the organizers said. They planned to walk peacefully through central Moscow next Sunday, Ekho said.

Anna Politkovskaya, who reported for Novaya Gazeta on human rights abuses in Chechnya and criticized President Vladimir Putin for building an authoritarian political system, was shot dead in her block of flats in central Moscow on Oct. 7. She was the latest investigative reporter to be killed in Russia. These are some of the murders of other reporters in recent years:

July 9, 2004: Paul Klebnikov, the U.S.-born editor of the Russian edition of Forbes who had been investigating the murky business world in Russia, is gunned down as he leaves his Moscow office.

April 29, 2002: Valery Ivanov, editor of the newspaper Tolyatinskoye Oborzreniye in the southern city Russian city of Togliatti, is shot dead outside his home. The newspaper was well-known for its reports on local organized crime, drug trafficking and official corruption.

June 7, 1998: Larisa Yudina, editor of the opposition newspaper Sovetskaya Kalmykia in the southern Russian region of Kalmykia, is stabbed to death and her body dumped in a pond on the outskirts of the regional capital, Elista.

March 1, 1995: Vladislav Listyev, executive director of the newly formed public television station ORT, is shot dead as he enters his apartment block. Listyev was one of Russia’s best-known TV journalists.

Oct. 17, 1994: Dmitry Kholodov, an investigative reporter for the Moscow newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, is killed in a bomb blast at the newspaper’s office. Kholodov, who had been investigating mafia connections with the military, was killed when he opened a briefcase he believed contained secret documents.

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