Ilyumzhinov: 'Gaddafi still in Tripoli'

PeterDoggers
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Ilyumzhinov plays chess with GaddafiThe name of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was mentioned in worldwide mainstream media on Tuesday, and again it was related to Muammar Gaddafi. According to Russian press agency Interfax, the FIDE President spoke on the phone with the Libyan dictator, who said he was still in Tripoli.

Ilyumzhinov and Gaddafi playing chess on June 12th, 2011

Like many, on Sunday night we were glued to the Sky News live coverage of the happenings in Libya. The rebels had suddenly made considerable progress and were only kilometres away from the capital Tripoli. It was a piece of brilliant and brave journalism by Sky News correspondent Alex Crawford.

For a brief moment we considered to send out a tweet along the lines of: 'If the rebels want to know where Gaddafi is hiding, why don't they just ask his chess buddy, our FIDE President?' Obviously we refrained from actually sending it, but the actual thought that Mr Ilyumzhinov could be one of the few people in the world actually knowing about Gaddafi's whereabouts, was intriguing enough. Amazingly, today's news made clear that our little thought experiment was not that far from the truth...

According to Russian press agency Interfax, Gaddafi told Ilyumzhinov on Tuesday that he will fight to the end even as rebel forces claimed to have breached the first gate of his fortified Tripoli compound. "I am alive and healthy," he said on the phone. "I am in Tripoli and do not intend to leave Libya. Do not believe the lying reports by Western television companies. I want to express thanks to everyone in the world who feels for the people of Libya. I am sure that we will be victorious."

This news was sent out to the world by mainstream media such as CBS, Huffington Post and The Telegraph (the latter describing Ilyumzhinov as 'chess master'). Libya.tv, run by the rebels in Libya, added that it was Gaddafi’s eldest son Mohammad who called Ilyumzhinov by telephone and then gave the phone to his father.

On June 12th the FIDE President's name was also in all the newspapers and on websites worldwide, because he had actually visited Gaddafi in Tripoli. It was a meeting that lasted two hours, and there was video footage of the two playing chess.

With Libya in a state of civil war and Gaddafi himself accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court, it was no surprise that this visit by Ilyumzhinov was severely criticised. In the week that followed, the Dutch, English and German Chess Federations all published an official notice of disapproval. Ilyumzhinov then published a press release saying it was “unfortunate that some people are trying to use this trip to wrongfully politicize the situation in FIDE”.
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