Although former chess world champion and Russian opposition leader Gary Kasparov has been released from detention, he is now going to be investigated for "promoting extremism" by the FSB (hat tip: VC reader Victor Steinbok), the Russian domestic intelligence agency that is the successor to the dreaded KGB and includes numerous former KGB officials in its ranks. The FSB does not enjoy as much coercive power as the KGB once did, nor does it have any equivalent to the old Soviet system of Gulag concentration camps, where tens of millions died. There is nonetheless a disturbing amount of continuity between the two agencies in both personnel and policies.
As I noted in my earlier post about Kasparov, the measures taken against him are important not only in their own right, but as a deterrent to other opposition political activity. If the government of President Vladimir Putin (himself a former KGB colonel), can repress a world-famous figure like Kasparov with impunity, it can even more easily do the same thing to less well-known members of the opposition who have fewer supporters in the West. Moreover, if Kasparov's statements can be described as "promoting extremism" and thereby banned, the same can be done with virtually any speech critical of Putin's government.
Kasparov's political views are quite conventional by Western standards (and also by those of Russian advocates of democracy and liberalization). He supports a Russia with strong protection for civil and economic liberties, political decentralization, and a non-imperialistic foreign policy. For a sampling of Kasparov's views in English, see here and here. For the official (Russian language) platform of Kasparov's United Civic Front, see here. The latter focuses on political democratization; most of it would be completely uncontroversial in any Western democracy. If Kasparov's platform is illegal "extremism," so is virtually any other liberal democratic-oriented opposition to the policies of Putin's increasingly authoritarian Russian state.