Putin ‘will try finish off his victim’ warns Khodorkovsky
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Former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky says Vladimir Putin’s demise is now inevitable as a result of his invasion of Ukraine. A critic of the Kremlin and once the richest Russian businessman, he was jailed for ten years in Russia over tax evasion and embezzlement of fraud. He now warns European leaders against entering talks with Putin as the move could backfire on them.
In a direct address to EU leaders, Mr Khodorkovsky told Euronews’ The Global Conversation: “Leaders of major European countries still believe that it’s possible to agree on something with Putin without showing him their strength. That is from being in a weak position from Putin’s perspective.
“And this is a dramatic mistake because they’re not talking to a leader who’s like them. No, they’re talking to a gangster.
“And any gangster thinks they’re in a position of strength and when being asked to make concessions, they will try to finish off his victim.”
When asked about Putin’s thoughts and how far he could go in the war, Mr Khodorkovsky said: “What I see on his part today is a mixture of pragmatism that is designed to strengthen his electoral rating and an emotional response. I mean, a kind of paranoid fear of what is happening in the neighbouring country. Fear of democratic transformation. The independence that Ukraine has gained.”
In a blow to Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelensky moved one step closer to joining the European Union on Friday, as the European Commission granted Ukraine EU candidate status. Last week, President Zelensky kept repeating that the move would spark a Russian backlash and fiercer attacks in both Ukraine and possibly EU territory. The threat has failed to materialise.
Upon launching the invasion of Ukraine, Putin said NATO’s eastward expansion had left him no choice but to act. In Putin’s worldview, Ukraine should be part of the Russian Federation and NATO represents a threat to his regime.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine also prompted Sweden and Finland to apply for NATO membership which they have failed so far amid Turkey’s resistance who vetoed their entry.
In the early stages of the war, the independent polling firm Lavada Centre found Vladimir Putin had the backing of 80 percent of Russians in the Ukraine war. But research by the London School of Economics, which examined Russian opinion surveys, found the polls should be taken with a pinch of salt.
“Do Russians tell the full truth when asked about their support for the war?” the researchers wrote. “Based on our experiment, we can safely conclude that they do not.
“Russians, at least those in our sample, clearly hide their true attitudes towards the war,” they said.
Mr Khodorkovsky continued: “Putin has solved his electoral problems through war four times during his presidency. The first time was in 1999, then it was indeed 2008, 2014 and now 2022.”
In 1999, Russia invaded the independent republic of Chechnya, which used to be part of the Soviet Union until it broke up in 1991, with the same blueprint he is now using for Ukraine. In a similar way, Georgia lost parts of its territory to Russia in 2008. And amid rising tension in Ukraine, Putin took advantage of the political turmoil created by former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a political association and free trade with the European Union and invaded the eastern Donbas region in 2014.
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“Quite recently, probably a month ago, I was surprised by Mr Borrell (EU’s Foreign Policy Chief),” Mr Khodorkovsky said. “He’s a European official and I never expected harsh words from him. But he said the right thing.
“This conflict will be resolved not at the negotiating table but on the battlefield. In the end, of course, there will be negotiations and in the end, the war will be stopped with negotiations. But the very first solution is going to be on the battlefield.
“There’s no alternative.”
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