'Regime will end very soon': Jailed Oligarch explains why many Russians also want Putin to go
Khodorkovsky to reunite with wife and children after 10 years in Russian prison

A Russian businessman imprisoned for a decade by Vladimir Putin believes the end is near for the former KGB operative's regime.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who founded one of the nation's first commercial banks, spent 10 years in a Siberian prison after publicly criticizing Putin's business corruption, but he now lives in London after he was freed ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics, and he told The New Republic that President Joe Biden was right to say that Putin “cannot remain in power.”

“I think that Biden was right in his last speech about Putin, and I was very upset that the White House bureaucrats said it was a mistake," Khodorkovsky said. "Putin is an enemy of the U.S. as well. If he stays in power, there is no peace. You can try to be an ostrich, with your head in the sand. It is not the task of the U.S. government to remove Putin, but … until Putin leaves, we will never have a normal life. That is the opinion of a large part of Russian society."

However, he said, the U.S. government cannot depose Putin, but that move must instead come from Russians themselves.

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“We must understand correctly what Biden meant," Khodorkovsky said. "It’s not that he said what the American government should do. This was his remark to the Russian audience. It is up to the Russian people to remove Putin from that position. Putin understood this exactly as the White House understood it, so everyone understood Biden correctly.”

Khodorkovsky is directing two projects aimed at supporting Russian and Ukrainian refugees, and he's now working on a third project to assist dissidents within Russia.

“It is important to these people to preserve their Russian identity — this Russian diaspora — but they don’t want to be associated with Putin," Khodorkovsky said. "There is a difference between this Russian diaspora and the entire Russian diaspora. The difference is that these people want to go back. But they want to return when Putin is gone. We want to assist them.”

He doesn't expect those dissidents to destabilize Putin, but he does expect his regime to collapse over the Ukraine invasion.

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“I don’t expect that their impact will be to destabilize Putin,” Khodorkovsky answers me. “But Putin’s regime is going to end very soon. It will inevitably end with a lost war. It could be a lost war now with Ukraine or, tomorrow, a lost war with NATO — because he is not going to stop. As soon as he loses the war in Ukraine or the next war, his days are numbered, and at that point, [world powers] will be interested in having Russia remain whole, not fall apart, because Russia falling apart wouldn’t be a pleasant thing for anyone.

“So if we are talking about a framework of five years before Putin goes down, then this diaspora [is] the people who will come back and make a difference," he added. "If we are talking about 10 years, then there would be other people, not those who left today. But with high probability, we are talking about a framework of five years, and that’s why we want to work with these people.”

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