Ukraine: Putin realizes ‘there can be no military solution,’ Khodorkovsky says

April 2, 2022

Exiled Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky says Russian President Vladimir Putin “is stuck” in Ukraine and has only two options going forward.

Over a month after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has come to understand that “there can be no military solution here,” exiled Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky told DW.

Khodorkovsky, a prominent critic of the Russian leader, previously spent a decade in prison in Russia on charges widely regarded as revenge for challenging Putin’s rule.

Russian troops began their invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Putin announced that the operation aimed at “demilitarizing” and “de-nazifying” the former Soviet state and protecting Russian speakers in the country.

But with Russia failing to quickly occupy the country due to strong Ukrainian resistance and its troops getting bogged down, Moscow recently announced a change in its war aims, saying that it will focus on the “liberation” of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

“Putin is stuck when it comes to the military operation,” Khodorkovsky said, adding, “Putin has two options now: Either he escalates things, which could mean either introducing mobilization or using tactical nuclear weapons, or he can stabilize the situation and begin peace talks in earnest.”

‘The West’s position needs to be clear’

In the interview with DW, Khodorkovsky also stressed the importance of a unified Western position. “The West’s position needs to be clear, meaning comprehensive support for Ukraine if the war continues and in case Putin uses tactical nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction,” he underlined.

“That sort of clear position from the West will, let’s say, help Putin make the right decision.”

Since Moscow’s military aggression began, the West has slapped unprecedented economic sanctions on Russia and started providing military aid to Ukraine.

While the US and the UK banned Russian oil and gas imports, a number of Russian banks have been banished from the SWIFT interbank system.

Nevertheless, many European countries like Germany rely heavily on Russian energy supplies to power their households and industry, so there haven’t been any international sanctions on the fossil fuel trade with Russia. But a number of governments are now seeking to reduce their reliance on Russian energy.

On peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, Khodorkovsky said: “For Putin to become serious about these talks, he must realize that he is stuck in Ukraine… After a month of war, he has understood that there can be no military solution here and there is an attempt to transition to a real negotiation process.”

Khodorkovsky calls Putin ‘a thug’

US and European officials said on Wednesday that they believed Putin had been misled by advisers who were too scared to tell him how poorly the conflict in Ukraine was going.

“We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military, which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership,” Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director, told reporters during a press briefing.

“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth.”

The Kremlin on Thursday denied these claims, saying they were evidence that the Department of State and the Pentagon did not “have real information about what is happening in the Kremlin.”

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists: “They don’t understand President Putin, they don’t understand the mechanism for taking decisions and they don’t understand the style of our work.”

When asked if Putin launched this war based on false assumptions about Russian military capabilities and Ukrainian society, Khodorkovsky said: “I am completely convinced that this time Vladimir Putin was presented a significant amount of false information both about the situation in Ukraine as well as the condition of his own armed forces.”

Calling Putin a “thug,” Khodorkovsky said: “Any attempt to reach a compromise with that kind of man without first showing him strength, that’s a huge mistake. It only provokes him to take a further step towards an attack.”

First published in the Deutsche Welle