Kremlin critic and chess legend Garry Kasparov on Tuesday called for a stronger Western response to Moscow's aggression in Ukraine and said Russian dissident voices must be included in efforts to stand up to Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with AFP, the former world chess champion who last week was put on Russia's list of "extremists," called for more military aid to Kyiv against a "terrorist regime that only understands force."

Kasparov, 60, blamed the Kremlin for the death in prison last month of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and said it marked a new low in Putin's crackdown on dissent.

“Navalny’s murder…is a new milestone,” Kasparov said. “We are dealing with an enemy who wants to win this war, because Putin is waging war not only against Ukraine, NATO and the EU, but also against the liberal world order.”

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Navalny, the Russian president's main opponent, died suddenly at the age of 47 in an Arctic prison in mid-February of what officials said were "natural causes." Navalny's team and Western leaders blame the Kremlin, which denies responsibility.

Navalny was buried in Moscow earlier this month, with tens of thousands of Russians queuing to lay flowers despite the threat of arrest in a striking display of dissent. His widow Yuliya Navalnaya pledged to continue his work.

- 'Criminal' war, 'Ukrainian' Crimea -

Kasparov, widely viewed as one of the world's greatest chess players, retired from chess in 2005 to focus on political activism and has lived in exile in New York for the past decade.

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In the interview, Kasparov urged the West to include Russian opposition voices in efforts to oppose Putin's aggression.

"In order to defeat Putinism and all the forces of evil that it represents, there needs to be a coalition that would include this Russian component, like (Charles) de Gaulle's Free French," Kasparov said referring to the French resistance movement during World War II, which de Gaulle headed from London.

"The people who are ready to say: 'The regime is illegitimate, the war is criminal, Crimea is Ukrainian' must become a part of this fight." Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

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Kasparov said he and other dissidents are working on formulating a path forward for the Russian opposition. "We need to create a matrix of a free Russia outside of Russia today, what we call half-jokingly a virtual Taiwan."

The Russian opposition, however, is notoriously fragmented and Navalny's team has in the past clashed with Kasparov.

Fresh disagreements emerged among Kremlin critics in recent weeks over how to register protest in this weekend's presidential election, which Putin is sure to win without any real opponents allowed on the ballot and election officials under his thumb.

Kasparov urged Western countries to welcome anti-war Russians, including programmers and engineers involved in the making of drones and other weapons.

"Give them a chance to leave, give them a chance to switch to the other side," Kasparov said. "I think this would sharply undermine Putin's ability to wage war."

- 'Devastating consequences'? -

Kasparov expressed frustration with the West's reluctance to fully back Ukraine's war against the Russian invasion, now in its third year. Kyiv has been struggling on the battlefield with crucial aid military delayed in the US Congress.

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Kasparov said Western sanctions imposed on Russia have achieved little and called on more funding for Ukraine, including from confiscated Russian assets, and long-range missiles.

President Joe Biden "promised devastating consequences. And where are those devastating consequences?" Kasparov asked.

"Unfortunately, the West is lagging behind, and any weakness demonstrated by the West is an invitation to Putin for more aggression."

Kasparov spoke to AFP on the sidelines of a gathering in Washington of the World Liberty Congress, a coalition of pro-democracy activists from 60 countries.

"We believe that from Russia to Venezuela, to China to Africa, all the authoritarian regimes and dictators are working together... voting for each other at the United Nations," said US-based Iranian dissident Masih Alinejad.

"The bad guys are united," Alinejad, who heads the organization, said at a joint press conference. "The time has come for the good people from authoritarian regimes to be united as well to expand our ideology, which is democracy, dignity, and freedom."

Formed last year, the World Liberty Congress espouses non-violent protest, provides support to grassroots activists in home countries as well as political prisoners and their families.

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Comments ( 1)

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John
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

Putin only understands force?

What a coincidence.

I expect most Ukrainian and allied citizens have now grown so angry with putin's vile regime that there is now no substitutions allowed for the forceful conclusion we seek. It will be very cathartic for Ukraine and the free world in general to see putin's days on earth end forcefully.

I certainly don't want to see a peace deal inked with an international pariah and mafioso style murderous thug.

Better to bring some of those weaponized pens to that meeting and make it a lasting peace.

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