Kasparov Arrest: Not the Right Move

Posted on August 25, 2012 by


Russia has come to the forefront of the news in recent weeks with the arrest and conviction of members of the punk band Pussy Riot. They were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after protesting inside a Moscow cathedral. The media storm and worldwide condemnation this provoked was astonishing, especially for such a little-known group. Also arrested at the protests was former World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov.

Since his retirement from professional chess, Kasparov has been at the centre of the protests. He leads the United Civil Front movement, and was a contender for President in the last election. He was arrested at a protest whilst talking to a journalist, and taken for questioning. He has since been released.

Kasparov said that:

“I think it’s a very important day, a historical day, because for the first time in our courts, the evidence of a policeman was not accepted just because he wears a uniform”.

However, when in the context of the Pussy Riot public relations fiasco, is this really what happened? Looking at the facts it seems more likely that the Kremlin did not want another round of international condemnation. Furthermore it might well be the case that sending him to prison might have deeper consequences than the Pussy Riot case. Kasparov’s worldwide fame and respect for his career in chess, coupled with his prominent position in protest politics, might provoke real action. While the UN will be wanting to stay clear of the situation for as long as possible, Kasparov’s followers might step up their protests, thus prolonging the government’s irritation.

Kasparov was accused of biting the finger of one of the policemen who arrested him. It is still possible that this could lead to a criminal investigation.

It should be kept in mind that, although thousands march the streets in protest, Russia is in no way another ‘Arab Spring’ revolution-in-waiting (beyond the obvious that it isn’t in the Middle East). President Putin is currently trying to cement himself in power again, and will continue his pattern of bringing in regulations that hark back to Soviet-era politics. It is clear that he is willing to use force to achieve this.

The increasing tension between Russia and the West may create more obstacles on issues like Iran’s nuclear program, where Russia (and in this case China) already disagree with the other three permanent members of the UN Security Council (UK, US, and France).

CC image courtesy of  sime simon, Flickr