Obama Will Meet With Russian Opposition

Barack Obama and Garry Kasparov.  Collage by kasparov.ruPresident Barack Obama has invited several prominent members of the Russian opposition, including United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov, for a meeting in Moscow.  Boris Nemtsov, a chair of the Solidarity opposition movement, has also been invited to the meeting, set to take place on July 7th at the Ritz Carlton hotel.  The format of the event was still unclear.

“Of course, this will be interesting,” Kasparov said on the Ekho Moskvy radio station.  “The previous American administration didn’t dare to do this.”

A number of other prominent figures have also been invited, including Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) co-chair Leonid Gozman, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, attorney Yelena Lukyanova, and Federation Council chairman Sergey Mironov.

Obama will travel to Moscow on July 6th for meetings with the Kremlin as well as business and civil society leaders.  A meeting with Russia’s leading human rights advocates has been scheduled at the Metropol hotel, the location of a consultation between representatives from NGOs in the US and Russia.

Earlier, Boris Nemtsov argued that it was essential for Obama to meet with opposition forces in Russia.  “If the White House agrees to Putin’s suggestion to speak only with pro-Putin organizations… this will mean that Putin has won, but not only that: Putin will become be assured that Obama is weak,” he said.

Nemtsov, who spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said the American administration should lay their stakes on President Dmitri Medvedev, and not Prime Minister Putin.

“I believe that if Medvedev finally takes power into his own hands, we will have a chance to return to a political thaw, to democratization,” he went on.  “We are being given the chance to return to rule of law and the Russian Constitution.  Clearly, much depends on the opposition, on its energy… Which is why we alone are responsible for our future, and not Obama.”