Russian former chess champion and leading Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov said Saturday, Feb. 18, that Ukraine had to defeat Moscow as a "pre-condition" for a democratic transition in Russia.

"Liberation from (President Vladimir) Putin's fascism runs through Ukraine," Kasparov said at a panel discussion on Russia's "democratic future" at the Munich Security Conference, also attended by other prominent Kremlin critics.

"Russians live in a bubble. This cannot be broken unless the idea of empire collapses, thanks to a military defeat."

Kasparov, who left Russia about a decade ago, said "the war will be lost when they realise that they are losing the war" -- and not by judging territorial gains and losses.

Others at the panel included ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, rights activist Zhanna Nemtsova -- daughter of assassinated Kremlin opponent Boris Nemtsov -- and Irina Scherbakova, co-founder of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Russian rights organisation Memorial.


Kasparov urged the West to keep up its support for Kyiv, saying that "no expenditure is too much for Ukraine".

"What is feared is a de-escalation" and that Kyiv's allies would ease their efforts, said Khodorkovsky, once one of the richest men in Russia before he was imprisoned between 2003 and 2013.

Scherbakova, whose non-governmental group was shut down by the Russian government at the end of 2021, said she also shared the view that Ukraine's victory is indispensable.

"It's a tragic time, it's painful to hear for the Ukrainians because they are paying with their blood... but to go on the streets in Russia, one must be very brave," she said.

Scherbakova said that "pure manipulation" was going on in Russia.

"History is being rewritten" because Russians "do not feel the need to confront the crimes committed in the past" during the Soviet era, she said.

Nemtsova added that "one of the errors after the fall of the USSR is that there was not enough efforts made to explain to people what democracy meant".


"For a possible democratic Russia of the future, we must talk to Russian society -- the majority of the people are neutral, are not interested in Ukraine and think they cannot have any influence so they give up," she said.

"Our biggest mission is to help them reflect on the atrocities committed in Ukraine."

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