U.S. Sanctions Kirsan Ilyumzhinov For Supporting Syrian Government

U.S. Sanctions Kirsan Ilyumzhinov For Supporting Syrian Government

| 112 | Chess Politics

On Wednesday, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The FIDE president was specifically mentioned as part of a group “providing support to the government of Syria, including for facilitating Syrian government oil purchases from ISIL.”

In a new round of sanctions that respond to “continuing violence by the Assad regime against its citizens,” the U.S. has targeted four individuals and six entities allegedly providing support to the government of Syria. One of them is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. 

The Treasury Department has designated the FIDE president for “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria, Central Bank of Syria, Adib Mayaleh, and Batoul Rida.”

No details were given about the nature of Ilyumzhinov's support. He is linked to a person named Mudalal Khuri, who “has a long association with the Assad regime” and who “owns or controls the Russian Financial Alliance Bank” together with Ilyumzhinov.

The FIDE president reacted with surprise to the sanctions. “I think it’s wrong when the Treasury Department allows one to visit some countries, and forbids another from doing the same,” he told Russia TodayFIDE officials declined to comment to

The sanctions come shortly before a trip by Ilyumzhinov to the United States. According to Russia Today he is planning to travel there within a few days to determine which city will host the 2016 world championship match (“negotiate and sign a contract,” according to Ria Novosti). Ilyumzhinov is not planning to cancel this trip.

Ilyumzhinov meets with Assad in April 2012. | Photo courtesy of FIDE.

The sanctions mean that all assets of those designated that are in the United States or that are in the control of U.S. persons are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. Ilyumzhinov has stated that he has no accounts or property outside Russia.

In April 2014 another person known in the chess world was sanctioned by the U.S. because of the Crimea crisis: Gennady Timchenko. The Russian-born billionaire, who co-sponsored the 2013 Alekhine Memorial, was connected to more than 10 companies and banks added to the U.S. sanctions list last year.

The Treasury Department's press release also mentions the murder of Larissa Yudina: “An advisor to Ilyumzhinov, then-President of Kalmykia, was convicted in Russia in 1999 for the murder of an opposition journalist who reportedly was investigating an offshore business registration mechanism in Kalmykia tied to Ilyumzhinov.”

The new round of sanctions come at a moment when the U.S. is seeking cooperation with Russia in the fight against IS in Syria. Russia has stated it doesn't understand the sanctions, and has called on the U.S. to stop playing “geopolitical games.”

The U.S. Department of the Treasury is the same department that warned Bobby Fischer in 1992 not to play his match with Spassky. Back then it was illegal for Americans to conduct business in Yugoslavia due to the war, and Fischer was sent a letter advising him that his rematch with Spassky was illegal. Fischer famously spit on the letter at a press conference and played the match anyway. Fischer was later indicted in the U.S. by a federal grand jury.

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