According to a former Russian billionaire, the country’s billionaire elites must officially call Putin a war criminal in order to demonstrate that they do not work for the Kremlin.

Former Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky has urged the country’s billionaire elites to openly proclaim President Vladimir Putin a war criminal in order to demonstrate that they are not cooperating with the Kremlin.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon who escaped Russia to London in 2013 after falling out with Putin and spending nearly a decade in prison, said high-profile Russians who departed during the invasion of Ukraine cannot remain silent about Russian forces’ atrocities.

‘It’s impossible for public figures to depart quietly and then sit quietly.’ If you’ve departed, you should openly distance yourself,’ Khodorkovsky said in an interview with The Washington Post last week.

‘You should take the microphone and declare that Putin is a war criminal and that what he is doing is illegal, that the war on Ukraine is illegal.’

‘Say this,’ Khodorkovsky said, ‘and then we’ll understand that Putin has no power over you.’

The remarks of the exiled oligarch alluded to a number of Russian elites who have hesitated to officially denounce Putin’s war since it began.

Anatoly Chubais, an economist who was essential in the creation of Russia’s post-Soviet economy – and the privatization programs that allowed Russia’s oligarchs to nurture their immense riches – is one of the figures mentioned by Khodorkovsky.

Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven of Alfa Group, who left Russia during the invasion of Ukraine but are among Putin’s most prominent oligarchs, were also singled out by Khodorkovsky.

Khodorkovsky claimed in a recent interview with BBC R4 that the Russian despot ‘nowadays lives in his own universe’ and that ‘in the environment he has created around him over the previous 20 years, he truly felt he would be welcomed by people in the former Soviet republic as a liberator’.

Defending Putin against claims that he has gone insane, the former oil billionaire stated that “everything that is happening today is completely unexpected [to Putin].”

‘Has he set a limit on how long he can stay in power because of his aggressiveness? That is certain. Can he isolate Russia in the same manner that Iran has isolated itself, as if it were a castle under siege? That is something I seriously doubt. Russia is not the same as Iran. So he will obviously lose power in a year, two years, or three years.’

Khodorkovsky has also been an outspoken supporter of tough economic sanctions against Russia in order to cripple Putin and the Russian elite, arguing that if the Russian people’s income dried up, they would revolt.

‘I believe the West has taken a significant step forward. The freezing of the central bank’s accounts is, in my opinion, the only sanction that can stop the attack in the near term, but it is insufficient,’ the former tycoon said.

‘To avoid squandering this first step, all of the Kremlin’s currency alternatives should be disabled.’ I would never have said it before, but now that individuals close to me are being slain, such as in Kharkiv, I believe Putin’s troops should be pushed out of Ukraine by whatever means possible.

‘In Ukraine, Putin is utilizing the same military that he used to suppress people in Russia,’ Khodorkovsky added.

If a situation comes in which Russia’s currency reserves are depleted, and people are unable to wait until the end of the month for their paycheck, and people take to the streets, Putin will be forced to remove the military.’

Khodorkovsky was the wealthiest man in Russia in 2003, with a fortune estimated to be over $15 billion and a position of 16th on Forbes’ list of billionaires.

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