updated 2/26/2008 6:00:22 PM ET 2008-02-26T23:00:22

The man all but certain to become Russia's next president reached out, sort of, to Washington on Tuesday, saying he was willing to work with any future American president who isn't stuck in the past and doesn't have "semi-senile views."

But opposition leader and chess champion Garry Kasparov also called out to Western nations to snub President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, and called for a boycott of Sunday's election and protests the following day.

A leading Russian human rights advocate and watchdog Amnesty International joined in the criticism of a presidential campaign that has been heavily tilted in Medvedev's favor.

Medvedev, the first deputy prime minister, said that Moscow and Washington have plenty of common concerns, such as tackling terrorism and regional conflicts, according to Russian news agencies.

"We have worked and are working with the current (U.S.) administration and we will work with any administration that will be chosen as a result of the election," he was quoted by ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti as saying.

"Although of course it's easier to work with people who have modern positions, and not with those who have glints of the past in their eyes, who frequently profess such semi-senile views," he added.

He did not elaborate.

Ties between Moscow and Washington have been strained under Putin, who has squeezed dissent at home and criticized U.S. policies on the world stage. Many politicians in the United States and Europe have had rough words for Putin, too.

Medvedev has been endorsed by the popular Putin and he has received wide and overwhelmingly positive coverage on state-run television ahead of the vote.

He is expected to win overwhelmingly against three other candidates. Many potential challengers dropped out; Kasparov's candidacy collapsed on a technicality.

At a news conference Tuesday, Kasparov accused Western leaders of giving Putin undeserved legitimacy by welcoming him into the Group of Eight industrialized nations -- and cautioned the West against inviting Medvedev to the G8 summit in Japan this year.

"If they invite Medvedev," he said, "that will mean effectively the recognition of this criminal election process." He said Western leaders must decide whether to accept what he called Russia's "quasi-monarchy."

Kasparov predicted that Medvedev could try to reach out to the West early in his presidency — but that such a gesture would lead to a fissure within the Kremlin between liberal-leaning forces and hard-liners and end in a political meltdown.

He and colleagues have decided to boycott the vote. "Not going to the polls is what gives the ruling powers the most discomfort," he said.

Protests planned
Kasparov's political movement plans protests on Monday in St. Petersburg and Moscow, despite a ban by Moscow authorities. Police have violently broken up such demonstrations in the past, and he predicted more riot police than demonstrators.

Meanwhile, Sergei Kovalyov, a leading human rights advocate and Soviet-era political prisoner, sent an open letter to Putin and other officials calling the electoral process a "tasteless farce." He said the current situation in Russia is "a dead end from which not one path leads to democracy."

Amnesty International decried a clampdown on freedoms of assembly and speech in the run-up to the presidential elections, citing harassment of opposition politicians, human rights activists and journalists who cover public meetings.

"The space to express critical views in the Russian Federation has been gradually and progressively curtailed in recent years," the group said in a report released Tuesday.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments