Chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov has claimed David Cameron and other Western leaders are treating Russia in the same way that Neville Chamberlain appeased Nazi Germany.
The former world champion, a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin, accused the West’s statesmen of failing to take the Russian president’s actions seriously enough and of showing weakness by publicly declaring that they would not provide military support for Ukraine.
Mr Kasparov said Mr Putin did not believe that the sanctions regime imposed as a result of the Ukraine crisis would last, but warned that the threat of economic ruin could make the Russian president’s actions more volatile.
Ukraine’s territorial integrity was guaranteed by the UK, USA and Russia in the Budapest Memorandum in exchange for Kiev handing over control of its nuclear arsenal to Moscow.
Mr Kasparov, 51, warned that the consequences of failing to uphold the agreement could lead to nuclear proliferation.
He said: “The consequences of this Ukrainian crisis could be felt way beyond Ukraine, the former Soviet Union or Europe.
“We have to pray that the Western politicians will eventually recognise the dangers.
“My problem is today you have so many politicians lining up to become a new Chamberlain. Where are the Churchills?”
Mr Kasparov, who was speaking on a visit to the Houses of Parliament to promote chess being taught in schools, said the Russian president – a former KGB spy – preferred other games.
He said: “Putin does not play chess. Putin plays poker, Putin plays games where he can bluff.
“Chess is a game with strict rules and open information. As a KGB operative, he prefers to play games where he can trick his opponents by his superior fighting skills.
“He can bluff with a pair of sixes and his opponents are folding their cards with a full house.”
Mr Kasparov added: “The problem for me is not that the Western leaders are not willing to impose new sanctions, the problem is they keep showing their weakness.
He said the economic difficulties facing Russia could force Mr Putin to adopt a more aggressive foreign policy.