Sunday, March 25, 2007

Garry And Gorky

Russian police have used force to break up an anti-government protest in Nizhny Novgorod, the country's fourth largest city still widely known by its old Communist name of Gorky. It's the second time it's happened recently, after a similar protest was shut down in St Petersburg. The most high-profile figure involved in the anti-Putin opposition is former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who reveals more about his efforts to take on the Kremlin in this interview.

On the face of it, it's slightly odd that police would react so strongly to a relatively minor demonstration, especially when Putin took a whopping 80% of the vote at the last election. It mirrors the absurdly tough line taken by the Kremlin in bumping off its critics Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko, as they surely did, despite all the official denials.

The Kremlin seems worried that Kasparov might actually be right when he says Putin's grip in power is far more fragile than it looks. Kasparov claims the Russian government would fall in a month if a free press existed there, and the people were able to hear views other than the Kremlin's. The government's keenness to shut down all forms of dissent suggests that's not as far from the truth as it sounds.

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