Former Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov said Jews should not be portrayed as Kremlin supporters or detractors. In an impassioned speech Tuesday to a conference on security and democracy in Prague, Kasparov, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief critics, called Russia a “police state masquerading as a democracy.” Asked whether Russian Jews were sufficiently outspoken about Putin allegedly reducing democratic reforms, Kasparov told JTA, “Do you mean Jews or their leaders? Lazar, he is of course Kremlin,” he said, referring to one of Russia’s chief rabbis, Berel Lazar, a Chabad leader who was described by critics in a recent Wall Street Journal article as someone who supported Putin in return for favorable treatment for Chabad.”But Jews should not be characterized as one way or the other,” Kasparov said. “There are some that are against Kremlin policies, and there are supporters. However, do not separate Jews from Russians or you can start breaking down the whole society, and that makes no sense.” Kasparov, whose father is Jewish, leads the United Civil Front, a non-governmental organization that stages protests against the erosion of democracy and human rights in Russia. His speech was delivered to a conference organized by the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Israel.
Kasparov warns against pigeonholing Jews