After the U.S. Department of the Treasury placed Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Russian citizen and FIDE President, on its sanction list, he informed members of the FIDE Presidential Board that he would temporarily hand over his legal, financial and business responsibilities related to FIDE activities until his name was excluded from the sanction list of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
After that Ilyumzhinov answered Kirill Zangalis’s questions.
Q: Kirsan, why did you make this decision after all, so unexpected for many people, and did you consider it for a long time?
On November 25, being on a business trip to Italy, I received congratulations from the local federation on the 20th anniversary of my presidency at FIDE. And on the same day, I received this “present” from the United States. The U.S. Treasury announced that I was placed on a sanction list due to my connections with two Syrian citizens, and a few other ridiculous accusations were made against me. FIDE First Vice President Georgios Makropoulos and many other colleagues were with me in Italy. We decided to convene an extraordinary Presidential Board meeting at our headquarters in Athens. And I decided that since the Treasury deprived me of the right to sign financial and other documents (and a Candidates’ Tournament would be held in Moscow as soon as March with two U.S. citizens participating, while the match itself would take place in the United States in November), I had to take a pause and deal with this situation on my own. Without setting FIDE up. And the best solution was to delegate some responsibilities temporarily.
Q: Till what time? Do you really think that the U.S. Treasury would change its decision by that time? Everyone knows that this organization approaches such issues very seriously.
The next Presidential Board meeting will be held in three months. By that time my lawyers and I want to receive all the official accusations against me, which haven’t reached me up to now. I am ready to go to Washington and respond publicly to all the questions and accusations. I affirm that these accusations are either a mistake or a provocation. And since I have already suffered from moral damage, my lawyers are filing a 50 billion dollar lawsuit. This is the lawyers’ approximate estimate of my moral and financial damage.
Q: Before taking such a serious decision, have you discussed it with Igor Levitin, who is in charge of sport in the Russian President’s Administration, or Dmitry Peskov, the Russian President’s Press Secretary, who is also Chairman of the Russian Chess Federation’s Supervisory Board?
This is my personal issue. And I didn’t inform anyone so as not to set FIDE up. I decided that I would resolve all my problems on my own and that Makropoulos, who became the acting FIDE President, would be in charge of chess competitions. And since I feel that this Treasury decision was made by individual people in the United States and not by the system, I decided not to ask for help from Russian officials. My conscience is clean, and I am absolutely sure that I am right. Moreover, in response to the sanctions by some bureaucrats, unknown for now, I decided to make a gift to the real chess fans in the United States. Along with the World Chess Championship, their country will also host the World Rapid and Blitz Championships among men and women as well as the largest children’s tournament. We also declared the year 2016 a Year of Chess in the United States.
Q: The next Presidential Board will be held as soon as in three months. Do you really think that you can be relieved of the sanctions by then?
I emphasize once again that first of all I want to obtain an official paper from the U.S. Treasury, and then I will be able to answer openly all the questions they are concerned about. I am ready to go to Washington in person, and I am still allowed to enter the country. But due to the sanctions I can’t pay for the hotel, taxi, restaurant or other everyday services either by cash or by card. Nevertheless, I hope that justice will prevail and the sanctions will be removed before the next Presidential Board meeting.
Q: It seemed until quite recently that the positions of Blatter and his supporters in FIFA were unshakable. Aren’t you afraid that your competitors will become more active during your temporary resignation?
We know the people who would like to benefit from this situation. But I have worked in good faith over the last 20 years, I have a great credit of trust in the chess world, and I know it won’t let me down. According to the Charter, the FIDE President’s elections should take place in three years. And I am confident that this credit of trust will not be exhausted even in three years. Everyone understands very well that it is the current FIDE leadership that was able to fulfill the main task: we united the chess world that had split apart, we created an ideal system of determining the world champion which is understandable to everyone. FIDE is such a well-organized, open and democratic organization that we have simply nothing to be afraid of.
Q: The former President of the European Chess Union and President of the Bulgarian Chess Federation, Silvio Danailov, openly accuses FIDE’s First Vice President Makropoulos and other leaders of your federation of running a so called “family business”.
As far as I know, there are serious questions to Danailov regarding his actions as President of the European Chess Union (ECU). I was informed that there is an ongoing trial where Danailov is accused of misappropriating public funds. Furthermore, a privately owned entity with a similar name was set up in the United States and received tournament participation fees. The famous Bulgarian grandmaster Kiril Georgiev and the Montenegro Chess Federation stated this publicly. I hope this matter will reach a conclusion in the near future.
Q: Amid the complicated political relationship between Russia and the West, could your opponents try to strike a blow against Russia by removing a Russian citizen, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, from his post as head of FIDE?
Some people often try to put spokes in Russia’s wheels. But common sense will prevail! The Soviet Union and Russia have always been the greatest chess nation in the world. And everyone understands now that it is Russia that is the trend-setter in chess. I am going to hold my ground to the last, and I am sure that a vast majority in our wonderful chess world will support me.