Ex-oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky is considered by many to be Putin’s archenemy. In an interview he now talks about how Russia could overcome the Putin era and why the Russian president cannot afford to end the war in Ukraine.

Under Boris Yeltsin’s privatization era, Mikhail Khodorkovsky became the richest man in Russia with oil deals. In 2003 he fell out with Putin, was in a Russian prison camp and now lives in exile in London. In an interview with “Stern”, the Kremlin critic also commented on the Russian war of aggression.

In this context, Khodorkovsky also spoke about the sympathy of the Russian people with the so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine. He summarizes: “There is a serious Weimar syndrome in Russia.” Older Russians in particular felt their national pride was offended and humiliated. The ideal breeding ground for Putin’s tsarist fantasies, he recently compared himself to Peter the Great and called for “taking our country back”.

In order to stop the megalomania, Khodorkovsky sees a Russian defeat in Ukraine as inevitable, “which may not be admitted immediately, but it is recognizable.” But that is not the end of the Putin era. There are two options for separating Russia from the Putin system.

“Either the West is again counting on a good tsar to be found in Russia,” says Khodorkovsky. “But that is hopeless, because all Russian tsars need an external enemy to keep the country under control from within.”

Khodorkovsky sees the second option in a fundamental reform of federalism in Russia: “a shift of power from the center to the regions”. To do this, the central organs of power, including the Kremlin, would have to limit their powers. “It won’t be an easy path, but in any case the regions don’t need the external enemy that a centralist ruler needs to stay in power,” said the Kremlin critic.

According to Khodorkovsky, the road to the end of the war could still be long. According to his assessment, Putin will not end the fighting on his own. “He cannot afford to end this war because he knows it will be the end of him.” The West should keep sanctions in place for as long as possible to prevent Russia from preparing for a new war.

Khodorkovsky brushes aside calls for concessions to Russia in order to facilitate peace negotiations. These are “a fallacy”. The West should use arms to help Ukraine fight and defend its territories. How far the Ukrainians want to go, they would have to decide for themselves. One thing is certain about Putin: “If you give something to a bandit, he thinks he can take everything away from you.”

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