Mikhail Khodorkovsky added that in Russia there is a belief that losing the war in Ukraine could lead to the end of the country.
Vladimir Putin’s continued rule will lead to the “disintegration” of the Russian Federation, Mikhail Khodorkovsky has warned.
The exiled Russian businessman, who was once considered the country’s wealthiest person, was speaking on the sidelines of a two-day roundtable conference in Brussels centred on the future of Russia and the country’s opposition.
The conference, called “The Day After,” included EU and Russian opposition representatives and was organised by the major political groups of the European Parliament.
But Khodorkovsky said that active resistance to the war in Ukraine is not as prevalent as the opposition would like to think.
“Putin fails to completely fill people’s brains with his propaganda. However, unfortunately, people’s perceptions are changing under the pressure of propaganda,” said Khodorkovsky, the former CEO of the oil company Yukos.
He said that many Russians believe that losing the war in Ukraine could lead to the country’s collapse, a view that he personally sees as “erroneous” but “absolutely effective” in shifting the narrative.
“This is the most dangerous thing. That is why I speak so often and say that Russia’s disintegration is threatened only at the hands of Putin, and not because Putin leaves power,” the Kremlin critic said, speaking through a translator.
“This is the most important message for Russians today. Putin in power is equal to the disintegration of Russia.”
The conference included questions about how to analyse Russian society and whether Russian opposition to Putin is opposition to the war in Ukraine.
Discussions also centred on EU strategy including how the EU can support civil society and human rights in Russia.
Dead end ‘if things do not change’
Andrius Kubilius, a Lithuanian MEP who previously served as the country’s prime minister, told Euronews meanwhile that a change of regime in Russia can come at any time depending on the outcome of this war.
“Russia, I think, it’s coming to a dead end in its development if things will not change,” said Kubilius.
He added that perestroika, Soviet reform in the 1980s, in his view, happened when the political elite realised that “if things will continue to go as they were going during Brezhnev time, then Soviet Union simply will, you know, collapse very quickly.”
Around 70 anti-war and opposition groups previously met in Berlin in April to agree on a common declaration, which has now been signed by 30,000 Russians.
This position is that the war is criminal, that the regime must be removed from power, and that Ukraine’s sovereignty within its 1991 borders must be restored.
Watch Euronews correspondent Efi Koutsokosta’s full report in the video player above.