The exodus from Vladimir Putin’s jackbooted Russia is on. On Thursday, Russian chess grandmaster and Putin political opponent Garry Kasparov announced that he had left the country thanks to its political repression. “I kept traveling back and forth until late February, where it became clear that I might be part of this ongoing investigation of the activities of the political protesters,” Kasparov told a press conference in Geneva. “Right now I have serious doubts that if I return to Moscow I may be able to travel back. So for the time being I refrain from returning to Russia.”
Kasparov is not the first anti-Putin citizen to feel the harsh hand of the Kremlin. He’s also not the first to leave. Sergei Guriev, head of Russia’s New Economic School, ran away to France. Guriev wrote in The New York Times that he “feared losing my freedom … I bought a one-way ticket from Russia and will not return to my country.” VKontakte founder Pavel Durov has also fled. More than a fifth of Russians want out, according to a recent poll.
In August, band Pussy Riot got two years in jail for an anti-Putin stunt at a cathedral in Moscow; anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny is facing jail time; left-wing activist Sergei Udaltsov is under house arrest; a dozen Russian protesters face trial after a scuffle with police.