MOSCOW (Reuters) - Chess grandmaster Anatoly Karpov was turned away on Tuesday when he tried to visit and offer moral support to his old rival Garry Kasparov, under detention for anti-Kremlin protests, a Kasparov aide said.
Kasparov is serving a five-day sentence at a Moscow detention centre for leading a protest against President Vladimir Putin last weekend. He is due to be freed on Thursday.
“He (Karpov) was trying to visit Kasparov but he was not allowed to do so,” Marina Litvinovich, a senior member of Kasparov’s United Civil Front, told Reuters.
“Karpov is a member of the Public Chamber (collective government oversight body) and has the right to visit those detained. All the same, they would not let him in,” she said.
“Karpov must have been seeking to extend moral support or see the conditions in which Kasparov is being held.”
The United States and European powers have expressed concern at the Kremlin’s crackdown on the protests ahead of December 2 parliamentary election.
Karpov became one of the Soviet Union’s most influential public figures after Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev personally branded him the “The Chess King” and told him “to hold the crown” when the young grandmaster became world champion in 1975.
Ten years later, his reign was over when he lost the title to Kasparov who confessed eventually that by defeating Karpov he was also challenging the old communist system and fighting for a new, democratic Russia.
On Tuesday, the two men’s personal ambitions and different political views seemed to matter little.
“A person is in trouble; of course I’m not indifferent to that,” Karpov told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “In Russia right now we have, what, four world chess champions? And of course the fate of any one of them is important to other chess players, both in Russia and abroad.”
Karpov told the radio station he must have spent more time at the chessboard with Kasparov than with any other player, including a grueling match that went on for four months.
“Generally speaking, I don’t share his political views, but that’s something different,” he said. “I didn’t come here to support him politically.”
Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Dobbie