Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion and self-exiled opponent of President Vladimir Putin, is seeking Latvian nationality to end the 18-year tenure of the Russian head of the World Chess Federation.
Kasparov, 50, said that he wants a second passport to avoid the possibility that the Russian government will pressure him over his election challenge to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a former Russian regional leader.
“I can’t put my freedom of movement at the mercy of Putin’s Foreign Ministry,” Kasparov said in a statement posted on his website today, adding that he will need to travel around the world to campaign for the post. “That’s the main reason why I want dual nationality.”
Iluymzhinov, 51, the former leader of southern Russia’s majority Buddhist region of Kalmykia, has been president of the chess federation, known by its French acronym FIDE, since 1995.
Ilyumzhinov claims that he was abducted by aliens in 1997 and built a chess city in the capital of Kalmykia. Having fought off a challenge to his FIDE leadership in 2010 from former chess champion Anatoly Karpov, he will seek to extend his term at elections in August next year.
Kasparov, who became the youngest world chess champion at age 22 and was a top player for 18 years, is a leading member of the Solidarity opposition movement in Russia. He fled the country earlier this year, saying he feared arrest.
Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis declined to comment yesterday on Kasparov’s request for nationality, for which he’s seeking an act of parliament in the Baltic state. Ainars Latkovskis, also from the prime minister’s party Unity, said on Latvian television yesterday that granting citizenship to Kasparov might not help relations with Russia.
Ilyumzhinov flew to Tripoli in 2011 to play a game of chess with Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, four months before Qaddafi was killed by rebels who overthrew his more than four-decade rule. In April 2012, Ilyumzhinov held talks in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who’s fighting a civil war that began in March 2011.
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