– Russian Space Oddity: Ground Control to Colonel Gaddafi (TIME, Jun 14, 2011):
When the U.S. and France asked Russia last month to help mediate the war in Libya, they were probably not expecting a self-proclaimed emissary of alien life to show up in Tripoli for a meeting with Muammar Gaddafi. But on Sunday evening, as NATO air strikes continued on the Libyan capital, the besieged Colonel took the time to entertain a Russian politician named Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, best known for his claims that extraterrestrials took him on a mystical tour of the galaxy in their spaceship in 1997. Far from convincing Gaddafi to step down, the visit seemed geared toward giving him a confidence boost – and an unlikely lesson in the game of kings.
For the past 15 years, Ilyumzhinov has also presided over the world chess federation, known as FIDE, which makes him the first head of an international body to meet with Gaddafi since the U.N.-backed bombing campaign against him began in March. In a video shown on Libyan television on Sunday night, Ilyumzhinov praises Gaddafi’s resilience. “It’s a great honor for me to be here to see that you are very well, healthy, because many people… gave wrong information,” he said in stilted English. (See what mediating in Libya could cost Medvedev.)
The two men then played a rather awkward game of chess. Allowed the first move, Gaddafi made a clumsy opening, nervously moving his pawn from F3 to F4, and Ilyumzhinov took the piece and moved it back for him. The game ended in a draw and a handshake for the cameras, after which Ilyumzhinov told reporters that Gaddafi had promised never to leave Libya, regardless of the West’s support for the rebels battling to overthrow him. The two-hour chat, Ilyumzhinov said, was held not in an underground bunker, where many western experts had presumed Gaddafi to be hiding, but in “one of the administrative buildings in the Libyan capital.”