19 December 2017

FIDE President: Sanctions Are 'Stone Age'

I ended last month's kickoff post for a series on FIDE, Spectating the 88th FIDE Congress, with an idea for a follow-up.

Later in the meeting, Ilyumzhinov gave a more detailed defense of his personal actions, but I'll save that for another post.

You might recall that the controversy goes back to March/April 2017, when I documented it in a pair of posts on my two chess blogs: Did He Resign? and He Didn't Resign. Let's move forward to October 2017, and listen to more of the discussion started in the 'Spectating' post.

Prof. A. Siegel [FIDE Treasurer; ...] proposed to the Executive Board in the interest of FIDE, we request Kirsan Ilyumzhinov not to run in the next Presidential elections. He requested a secret ballot vote.

This was discussed by the Board and seconded by the President of FIDE America: 'Mr. J. Vega seconded the proposal of Prof. Siegel.' Kirsan Ilyumzhinov began a long defense of his position. I hesitated about including it in its entirety, but there are so many fascinating elements here, that I finally decided to use it unabridged.

President Ilyumzhinov said that the elections will take place in September 2018 in Batumi at the General Assembly. Officially the campaign starts three months in advance, when a ticket is submitted and a person declares himself a candidate. Officially the announcement should be made that a person is running or not running, three months in advance. Therefore there can be many candidates, and not only among those who are present here.

He said he understands everything said by the members of the Presidential Board. He respects all said by Prof. Siegel and Mr. Borg, he understands the concern and he is also concerned but he has always defended the FIDE interests. The amount of his current travels is not more or less that during previous years, and he would like to underline that all his trips are in connection with the chess propaganda.

The minutes suddenly switch from third person to first person.

If you take any country he goes to -- be it Mongolia, Costa Rica, Zambia, Zimbabwe -- I meet with the leadership everywhere, make TV presence, popularize chess, speak at press-conferences, and no elections were discussed.

Yesterday we spoke a lot with those present here, with my Vice-Presidents, and I fully agree with their concerns. I do not see any critical in the continuation of their work, to continue my travels, to speak about people, children, to give simuls, to bring manuals and chess boards as gifts.

Of course you can make a motion and vote for it so I am forbidden to run in the FIDE Presidential elections. But why to vote, if I can refuse participating myself? Why to force me to do so? We are here in a democratic process. I hope the situation in the USA will also be clarified. I am under sanctions of one department in only one country, member of the UN and FIDE. Tomorrow any other country, a ministry -- of fire-fighters, finances, economics of Mongolia, Andorra, other countries -- will announce that someone of the audience is under sanctions. So will this mean that this person will have no right to run for the parliament, municipality, international organisations?

I am not in prison, officially I was not accused in any point by any court, prosecutor of the USA, FBI, CIA. I replied to all their questions in London, Paris, Zurich, Moscow. I showed them my 40 passports and 1500 trips abroad, I wrote an official letter to the FBI director, so I am checked at polygraph, and invited to Washington.

I came to London on purpose last year, as there is a FBI branch in London, to be tested at polygraph, to be interrogated. They refused. I wrote a letter to the U.S. President, to be invited, and asked him -- if the USA is a democratic country, please invite me and listen to me. If I am wrong, if I violated the U.S. laws, I am ready to go to prison. I am ready to go to prison for truth. But if the U.S. Dept of Treasury is wrong, they have to apologise to me -- this was my only request.

A month ago I wrote a letter to D. Trump. I am grateful to the USA President, and there have been several hearings on my case in the U.S. Department of Treasury in the USA, in their Administration. Among those who was invited to this Congress, is my representative, a U.S. lawyer, who was ready to reply to all questions about the hearings, which were held in the Dept of Treasury and the U.S. President’s Administration.

As you know, last May we had a Presidential Board in Moscow, and Candidates’ tournament. One of the EB members present here could not come to Russia because he was on a sanctions list of one of the Russian Ministries. I wrote an official letter to the President of Russia, and the head of this department and I succeeded to lifting of the sanctions from this person.

I have recently visited several African countries, and there all their Presidents, all members of the governments and parliaments are under the U.S. and U.K. sanctions. But despite this, the members of these countries work in the international organisations, and are heads of banks. Therefore I am as a Russian, am under sanctions.

In 2004 may of those present here, participated in the Presidential Board and World Championship in Tripoli. Libya was under sanctions, the chess players who played there, received money from people under sanctions -- son of Qaddafi, ministers, members of the Libyan Government, who sponsored the event, financed our World Championship where R. Kasimdjanov won.

In March in Tehran we organized the World Women’s Championship (as Mr. Makropoulos mentioned), but despite the fact that Iran is under sanctions, despite their ministries were under sanctions, we received the money and organized the championship there.

My lawyer Robert Amsterdam insists that the hearings are open, so that I could make a speech in the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate. I am ready to travel to the USA, to buy a ticket, so I wrote about it to the U.S. President. Therefore the sanctions policy carried out by several countries, is past, Stone Age.

This is not only about me -- this is about many citizens of this world. When I meet presidents of countries, presidents of international organisations, they tell to me: "Don’t give up, fight against this administration, fight against the U.S. Department of Treasury".

I have sent to all of you the list of points as basis for my inclusion in the list of sanctions. It includes only the Guardian publications and other Internet publications. Therefore I am open to come and reply to all their questions. And as I was told yesterday, the invitation has arrived to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and I hope that I will be able to visit Washington soon.

As for my participation or non-participation in the FIDE elections, I should be the one to announce. This is my personal decision and my right, to participate or not in the elections. Maybe we can take a joint decision, and agree who we will all support, right here. But I do not want my rights to be violated or limited, as a Russian citizen, as one of persons who work in international organisations.

When I travel to countries, I represent not only FIDE, I represent Kalmykia, where I have been President for 18 years, Russia where I have been a Parliament member several times. If I had been such a terrible person, a dangerous person, I would not have been received by Presidents and Prime Ministers of many countries.

Therefore, if I hurt anybody, made some mistakes, please accept my apologies. But all my work since 1995 for 22 years has been transparent and all of you have witnessed everything what I have done. I was spending my time, my health, my fortune, money not to promote myself, but to support and develop our chess, our country.

Once again I would like to underline -- if it is necessary, I will decide myself which I will take on my time -- to resign, to run or not to run in the elections. I am asking you not to force me. If you want, I will think, and can make an announcement myself -- we discussed this yesterday. But give me some time. I think all I have done during these 20 years -- give me a right to deserve a decent treatment and to request this.

I thank you once again for your concern and for your speeches. I understand you were speaking sincerely, therefore I am with you. But allow me to take a decision on my own.

Nowhere does Ilyumzhinov mention the specific accusations levelled against him, detailed in Treasury Sanctions Networks Providing Support to the Government of Syria (treasury.gov; November 2015), unless this is what he means by 'other Internet publications'. The accusations imply that he has been using his post as FIDE President, especially the travel privileges, to further his private business interests.

Mr. Gelfer announced the results of 59 secret ballots cast as follows: In favour of the motion - 37; Against the motion - 20; Abstained - 2

As Ilyumzhinov said, the vote has no legal significance. It was basically a vote of no-confidence. As for the notion that sanctions don't work, why were they being discussed by FIDE's Executive Board?

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