Newsletters / Post-Voldemort Russia

Mikhail Khodorkovsky spoke recently at the Oxford Union, and gave an interview to The Times – gently shaking those two pillars of the British Establishment. What he said, however, established the ground rules for how he sees post-Voldemort Russia.


At the Oxford Union, in that hallowed chamber, he studiously addressed the situation with good humour, demonstrating a mastery of his brief – a man who had done his homework.

“We know this regime won’t last forever. It’s even less stable than its Soviet predecessors, revolving as it does around an individual whose paranoia will only increase. […]

In any case, regime change, whenever and however it comes about, will necessitate a transition to fair elections; this transition must be preceded by the formation of independent political parties and the enabling of free election campaigning, which is impossible under current laws and enforcement practices. In other words, the reform of the political system must pave the way for free elections, rather than arise in consequence of the latter.”

The full speech is available here and on You Tube

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To Giles Whittell of The Times, Mr Khodorkovsky made it clear that he is concentrating on looking forward; in contrast to the backwardness of the regime he is battling.

“In the heads of many people in Russia, I am the anti-Putin,” he says softly. “As of today I am not an immediate danger to him, but I am still a danger to him. For Putin, having such an alternative to his rule is a threat. If he continues to make the kind of mistakes he is now making with terrifying regularity, this threat will grow. For Vladimir Putin, having such an alternative to his rule is a threat.” […]

It could happen. Khodorkovsky used to represent a clique of tycoons despised and envied for their wealth. For some, he still does. For many, time has changed that. His years in jail have been a long ritual of redemption that resonates deep in the Russian psyche. He has name recognition and a compelling backstory. He has a plan to replace Putin and the money to put it into action, and no one else does.

This interview was first published in The Times

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