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Monday, October 22, 2007

"I Don't Think That We Can Trust Opinion Polls Taken In A Police State"

Hot Air displays video of a CNN interview with Garry Kasparov, who is runing for Russian president. Complete transcript is available here.

The title quote is his response to Wolf Blitzer's mention of Putin's 83% approval ratings. In Kasparov's opinion, Russia has been (ahem) rooked by Vladimir Putin:

BLITZER: David Remnick wrote an article about you in The New Yorker magazine, the October 1st issue. I'm going to read a sentence because it jumped out at me when I read that article: "Kasparov, like many others in opposition, is convinced that Putin became a billionaire in office, perhaps the richest man in the country, and has entrusted Russian confederates to shelter his money in foreign banks."

First of all, do you believe that?

KASPAROV: Absolutely. I think we'll find out more when Putin is not in power. That will be one of the worst stories about dictatorships looting and robbing the country. Obviously it will take time.

But when you look at the list of Russia billionaires -- and that's the now second country in the world, ahead of Germany and Japan, just behind the United States, you'll find out that we already have dozens of billionaires. And Putin can imprison all of them in 24 hours.

Do we think that he is poor?

BLITZER: Well, what evidence -- besides your suspicion, but is there any hard evidence that he's stolen billions of Russian dollars?

KASPAROV: Look, Wolf, his cronies are in charge of the most lucrative business in Russia. His closest friends that work with him since the late '80s, and now they are "taking care," quote-unquote, of the most valuable businesses in oil, gas, and other energy sectors. They all are billionaires and that's not a big secret.

Now how about him? He is still poor?

BLITZER: Well, that is the question that...


KASPAROV: Absolutely. Don't worry, the independent -- independent justice in Russia will investigate it when the time comes.

BLITZER: But you are saying he has bank accounts -- Swiss bank accounts or all sorts of secret holdings, is that what you are suggesting?

KASPAROV: Look, you know, we -- what we know, for instance, that there is a mysterious owner of 37 (ph) percent of Surgutneftegaz, which is roughly worth $20 billion at the current market value. And these shares disappeared at the end of the last year from Russian registration, somewhere in the tax havens.

And there are many other similar occasions that might lead only to one person who is in charge. But again, his friends are splitting the country's national budget. They are in control of Gazprom, Rosneft, and the largest so- called state-run corporations.

BLITZER: Well, Russia is clearly making a lot of money now exporting oil with oil at $90 a barrel.

KASPAROV: It is not -- it is not Russia, there are people who are in charge. As we say in Russia, it is a bizarre combination of Karl Marx and Adam Smith. Expenses nationalized and profits privatized.

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