Although he was Vladimir Putin’s first prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov never imagined that his former boss would launch a major military operation in Ukraine.
In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Kasyanov, who was head of the Russian government from 2000 to 2004, expected the war in Ukraine lasted up to two years, but said he was convinced that Russia “can get back on via democratic. “
The 64-year-old former Russian prime minister, who worked for close ties to the West while he was in charged, he added that, like many Russians, he did not believe war would break out.
But Kasyanov realized that Putin was serious about his threats just three days before the military operation began on February 24, when the Russian president summoned the leaders of the Security Council for a televised meeting. in direct.
“When I saw the Russian Security Council meeting, I knew there was going to be a war,” he explained.
He added that he felt that Putin “was not thinking well” and said: “I know these people and just by looking at them I saw that Putin was no longer the same. Not the same. in medical sense but in political sense “.
After being fired by Putin, Kasyanov joined the Russian opposition and became one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics. He is now the leader of the opposition party “People’s Freedom” (Parnas).
Escape from punishment
For the past 20 years, Kasyanov has claimed that Putin, a former KGB agent who will turn 70 in October, he built “a system based on impunity and intimidation”.
“This is what has been achieved by a regime that, with Putin’s encouragement as president, has begun to act in a much harsher and more brutal way than in the later stages of the Soviet Union, “he added.
“It’s a system that resembles the illegal KGB system,” he explained. “Obviously they don’t expect any punishment.”
Kasyanov said he left Russia due to his opposition to the military operation in Ukraine and to live in Europe, but refused to reveal his location, fearing for his safety.
His close ally and opposition political colleague Boris Nemtsov was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015.
Furthermore, Putin’s fiercest opponent, Alexei Navalny, 46, was subjected to an attempted poisoning with Novichok in 2020 and is now behind bars.
Kasyanov expected the war to last up to two years and said Ukraine needed to win, explaining that “if Ukraine falls, the Baltic states will be next”.
He also noted that the outcome of the war would also determine Russia’s future.
Kasyanov said he was “totally” in I disagree with French President Emmanuel Macron’s idea that Putin shouldn’t be insulted.
He also expressed his rejection of requests for Ukraine to accept regional concessions in change of pace and the end of the war.
“What did Putin do to deserve this? He’s too pragmatic. I think this is a mistake and I hope the West doesn’t go that way,” he said.
For the era “post-Putin ” in Russia, Mikhail Kasyanov believes that his successor will be subjected to the security services, but that he will not in able to control the existing system for a long time and that eventually democratic elections will be held.
“I’m sure Russia will get back on the road to building a democratic state,” he said, estimating it would take a decade to “get rid of communism” and “get rid of Putin’s influence” from the country.
“It will be difficult, especially after this criminal war,” he added.
He stressed that trust must be restored with European countries, which he described as Russia’s “natural partner”.
While the Russian opposition is often described as too divided to beat Putin, Kasyanov said he believes the war in Ukraine has changed the situation.
He explained: “After the tragedy we are witnessing, the opposition will join. I have no doubts about that.”
He stressed that the Russians will face a difficult task of rebuilding their country: “Everything will have to be rebuilt from zero. We will have to initiate a full cycle of economic and social reforms, “she said.
“These are important and difficult challenges, but we must face them”, he concluded.
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