Kasparov fears Europe will stop pressing Russia on rights

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Chess legend turned opposition leader Gary Kasparov voiced fears Tuesday that the European Union will keep mum on rights abuses in Russia while the bloc woos Moscow for help in its debt crisis.

Kasparov warned that Russia was getting "more and more authoritarian," with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin set to return to the presidency next year, while world leaders were "critically fragile" as they ask Moscow for financial aid.

"No matter what happens in Russia, it seems that the financial needs will prevail, when you have leading EU countries pleading for Putin to share his oil and gas money," Kasparov told a news conference at the European parliament.

"I believe concerns about human rights and democracy will be pushed to the darkest corner," Kasparov said after talks with EU lawmakers.

He called on the EU to refrain from sending observers to December 4 legislative elections and March presidential elections, describing the process as a "scam."

"It's not a real exercise of the will of Russian people," he added.

Eurozone nations, mired in a debt crisis that has engulfed Italy, have sought financial support from emerging powers such as China and Russia in an effort to boost the 17-nation monetary union's bailout fund.

But European leaders failed to secure help from international partners at a G20 summit in Cannes, France, last week.

"It's not an easy time, because as the regime is getting more and more authoritarian ... violating its international obligations, the international community, the leaders of the free world are looking critically fragile, even asking Putin for financial assistance," Kasparov said.

The Kremlin controls all aspects of the election process, from the registration of political parties to fundraising and vote-counting as well as the mass media, he said.

"In its nature, it's not different from Belarus or Zimbabwe," he said.

"When I hear (Belarussian President Alexander) Lukashenko called the last dictator in Europe I get confused, because he is a dictator, we know that. But living in Russia, I can tell you that the actions of the Putin regime look more and more like actions taken in Minsk."

© 2011 AFP

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