Garry Kasparov, the former chess world champion turned critic of President Vladimir Putin, has left Russia and said he won’t return for fear of being detained, days after a government adviser fled the country citing pressure from law enforcement.
“Right now, I have serious doubts that I would be able to travel out again if I returned to Moscow,” Kasparov, leader of the opposition Solidarity group, said in audio recording on his website dated June 4 from Geneva, where he spoke at a human-rights event. “For the time being, I am refraining from returning to Russia.”
In April, Kasparov scotched rumors of “his political death” and insisted he wasn’t leaving the country in a message on his Twitter Inc. account. Denis Bilunov, a spokesman for Kasparov and another leader of the Solidarity group, confirmed he’s no longer in Russia and has no plans to return.
Kasparov joins a wave of departures by prominent economists and journalists after coming under scrutiny by investigators. Sergei Guriev, an associate of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and rector of the New Economic School in Moscow, fled Russia to avoid possible prosecution in a criminal case. Journalist Masha Gessen, who wrote a biography on Putin, said she was leaving Russia for New York with her three children.
“Some people are getting scared because they are fearful of unpleasant people in the security services,” Mattias Westman, chief executive officer of Prosperity Capital Management Ltd., which oversees about $4.5 billion in Russian assets, said by mobile phone from London. “We don’t yet see a crackdown on businessmen but people are a little paranoid right now.”
Another leading critic of Putin, Alexey Navalny, is on trial and faces as long as 10 years in prison over charges that he defrauded a state timber company. He denies any wrongdoing and says the case is payback for helping lead the biggest protests against Putin’s 13-year rule in 2011. Twelve people were indicted last month for mass rioting at a May 6, 2012 rally at Moscow’s Bolotnaya square on the eve of Putin’s inauguration, with closed court hearings scheduled to start today in the Russian capital.
Putin, a former colonel in the KGB, reclaimed the presidency last year from Medvedev, who’d stood in for him for four years. As president, Medvedev pushed to lower the state’s presence in the economy and combat corruption.
In January, Medvedev said he may run for the top post again when Putin’s third term ends in 2018. Three ministers in Medvedev’s Cabinet have been fired or forced out in the past seven months, most recently Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov, the government’s chief of staff.