If Putin succeeds in Ukraine, NATO borders will ‘no longer be an obstacle’, warns Khodorkovsky

February 16, 2023

By Marc Perelman

Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who served 10 years in prison on tax and fraud charges that many believe were politically motivated, spoke to FRANCE 24 from London, where he now lives in exile. Khodorkovsky said that while a “direct confrontation with NATO” was not part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan, Putin will be emboldened enough if Russia succeeds in Ukraine that NATO borders will “no longer be an obstacle” to his ambitions.

Khodorkovsky – once Russia’s richest man and the founder of Open Russia, an alliance of progressive Russians – said Putin has no choice but to see the invasion of Ukraine through to the end to satisfy his political base of “patriotic nationalists”. “I am convinced that Putin cannot stop,” he said.

With Western help, Kyiv could “crush Putin”, Khodorkovsky said. And defeated, the Russian president would likely lose his hold on the country.

“Russian society is deeply marred by propaganda,” he said. “But support for the war should not be overestimated.”

Only about 30 percent of Russians support the war, Khodorkovsky said. Another 50 percent simply “don’t want to question orders”.

“But if Putin were to face military defeat, then everyone would turn against him. And he knows that.”

The interview was first published in France 24