CHESS legend Garry Kasparov has branded Russian President Vladimir Putin "an oligarch who wants to rule like Stalin".
"My plea to the Western world is, please stop calling Putin a democratic leader. Putin is an oligarch who wants to rule the country like Stalin but to live like a modern oligarch," he told the Lennart Meri conference in Tallinn, Estonia.
The West should also "admit that the regime of Putin is the regime of oligarchs whose common slogan can be (summarised) as 'let’s steal together'," charged the Soviet-era chess world champion turned opposition figure.
"Western leaders should also understand that the way Russia is ruled is so different from democratic order. When in the US the president has to humbly ask Congress for every dollar he wants to spend, in Russia Putin can move billions by his own choice without asking anyone else," Kasparov said.
Kasparov has been a vocal critic of the Kremlin.
He said he believed that any "ousting of the current president will most likely come from the circles of his own closest allies".
Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was also at the conference yesterday, claimed that recent polls that led to the re-election of Mr Putin as president were marred by fraud.
"There are three symbols of current Russia - brutal police... that last week once again arrested both me and some 1200 demonstrators, of whom some are still jailed; terrible cynical propaganda; and total falsifications during elections," said Mr Nemtsov.
Not only were result falsified, but the state also refused to register many democratic candidates, he complained.
"Some 10 million dollars were spent during the recent presidential election campaign in Russia to get people to rally for Putin and vote for him," said the opposition leader.
The Lennart Meri Conference is named after the writer, filmmaker and diplomat who was Estonian president in the 1990s and died in 2006.