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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kasparov Urges EU to Call for Fair Vote

ReutersGarry Kasparov, left, being welcomed by Hans-Gert P?ttering on his arrival Wednesday at the European Parliament.
STRASBOURG, France -- Opposition leader Garry Kasparov urged the European Union on Wednesday to use its weight to press for a free and democratic presidential election in Russia next year.

The European Parliament gave the former chess champion a platform from which to launch a stinging attack on President Vladimir Putin, a week after authorities prevented him and other protesters from traveling to a Russia-EU summit.

Kasparov rejected suggestions that support for his United Civil Front group was waning and predicted a "severe political crisis" inside the Kremlin by the end of the year as rivals within Putin's camp fight to succeed the president.

"We are going to use all our resources, though limited, to ... ensure the election in March 2008 is not a fake one. We hope Europe will support us in this fight for solid, democratic institutions in Russia," Kasparov said at a news conference with European Parliament President Hans-Gert P?ttering.

"I have no doubt Russia will be facing a severe political crisis by the end of the year because of the inability of the current regime to come up with a unified candidate to succeed Putin," he said, forecasting that some Putin backers might defect to the opposition.

Kasparov's appearance at the EU legislature coincided with a European tour by Putin, going from Austria on Wednesday to Luxembourg on Thursday.

Kasparov said his group's failure to draw large crowds to its protest rallies was partly because of fears of harsh treatment by riot police, questioning the credibility of opinion polls that show Putin has wide popular support.

"Having 5,000 on a Moscow street is more impressive than having 100,000 on a Paris street protesting," he said.