«Using force to bring down Putin. Our opposition must be ready»- Corriere.it

«Using force to bring down Putin.  Our opposition must be ready»- Corriere.it

Of Federico Fubini

The opponent: «Prigozhin has dealt a very hard blow to the regime. He is a bandit and a war criminal, like Putin »

When Wagner's column was marching on Moscow on Saturday, Mikhail Khodorkovsky asked Russian citizens for help. The opponent, at one time the richest man in Russia and then for ten years a political prisoner, even invited to supply Evgeny Prigozhin's militia with gasoline.

Did he think he could take power?

“Prigozhin has dealt a terrible blow to the regime. Had he arrived in Moscow, the impact would have been even more destabilizing. Putin left the capital and his entourage was completely confused. Prigozhin is completely incapable of holding the levers of power and he has seen it. He is a bandit and a war criminal, like Putin. But he could have created a situation in which others might have succeeded in establishing a form of democracy. Putin understood and hurried to make arrangements with him. Prigozhin didn't make it, but there is this transition can still happen».

What deal do you think Putin made with Prigozhin?

“We can only speculate. He has asked for amnesty for all his fighters and he will probably be able to obtain a change of roles to the detriment of his enemies in the Defense Ministry ».

Is Putin greatly weakened because in fact he remains under the tutelage of Prigozhin?

“Now the regime is greatly debilitated. It was evident to all Russians that Putin did not have the support of the armed forces this time, nor does he appear to have any from the population. Prigozhin's exit from Rostov was triumphant and not because the population particularly loves him: they are so tired of Putin that they are ready to accept any change ».

You say change in Russia won't come from the polls. Should the democratic opposition, people like you, be ready to use force to overthrow the regime?

“I am convinced that a democratic opposition must have control of the armed forces. Of course we can influence the strong structures of the country, in particular on certain sections of the strong structures. As happened in '91 or '93, with the reaction of the armed forces in support of Boris Yeltsin and the democrats against the putschists or against the leaders of Parliament. But it would also be good to be ready for a different scenario».

What if parts of the military do not support a transition to democracy?

“I hope they do. But if it doesn't happen, we must be ready to have our own military force or people with arms. We are talking about this. We have to be ready for both scenarios."

For you, does Putin's end necessarily pass through a phase of civil war?

“My wish is that it can happen without bloodshed. However, in this situation we have a duty to show that we are also ready to use force, because a peaceful protest will not be enough to end the regime".

Do you work to prepare this capacity for the use of force by Democrats?

"No comment".

You ask Western governments to bet on the Russian democratic opposition. What should they do?

«For the future of Russia, it is very important who will replace Putin: it will be a new authoritarian leader or there will be a democratic system. For the West and especially for the United States, the simplest thing is for one leader to replace another. But in the case of Russia that would be a colossal mistake. Any authoritarian leader in Russia means limiting freedoms and excessive centralization. But when the system becomes like this, it needs an external enemy to rally the support of the people. Instead a democratic coalition would follow the model of a popular front. This would give Russia chances for democratization, with the support of Russian regions. I try in every way to convince the Americans, but with limited results».

Why is it so important to her?

“Today the West has some influence over Russia because of the sanctions and any new Russian government will have to negotiate about it. It's time to start talking about it. It is also important that Western governments recognize a legitimate representation of Russians who do not support Putin's regime: a democratic coalition, as is the case for Belarus. It's easier there because there is an opposition leader legitimized by the elections, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. We don't have it, but we need political recognition in the West."

Are you talking about a democratic coalition Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Kara-Murza, yourself and others?

«It is the union of various parties that are willing to join forces. Today it is called the Russian Action Committee. I hope we will somehow be able to agree on this point with the Ukrainians as well. Above all, we would like an understanding of Western governments, hoping they don't try to find a new authoritarian leader to support in Russia. That would be a mistake."

Should Westerners also support the democratic opposition to prepare them for the use of force?

“No, I don't want any Western military support. The Russians would deny us their support. We need recognition and ideal support, for the union of democratic oppositions».

Some Ukrainian politicians point to the fragmentation of Russia, with the secession of various regions. What do you think?

“That would be a big mistake, a very dangerous road. In Russia, the center of decisions is Moscow. If someone tries to destroy Russia and succeeds, what's left of the country will end up in the hands of an authoritarian leader. It would be a very aggressive dictatorship, hostile to neighbors who were to be held guilty of the destruction of Russia".

His former colleagues, the oligarchs, are silent. Why?

“They are very passive, they fear for their lives. To intervene, they would like very solid guarantees from Westerners on their property and their lives. As long as the war lasts, impossible.
(collaborated with Elena Gori Corti)

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June 25, 2023 (change June 25, 2023 | 21:00)

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