Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Unlike Soviet Leaders at the End of the 1980s, Putin has No Problem with Killing Russians, Khodorkovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 2 – With each passing year of Putin’s rule, political change may be delayed because he is quite willing to kill as many Russians as may be necessary to keep himself and his clique in power but it will take a bloodier form when it happens, émigré opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky says.

            This marks a stark contrast with the leaders of the Soviet Union in the last decades of that country’s existence, he continues. Ideologically, they felt themselves to be working for the people and thus using massive force against them was not something they wanted to sanction (

            And their unwillingness to use force against the people also meant that struggles within the elite were less likely to involve a threat to life, something that made political competition without the resort to violence more rather than less likely and thus political change more peaceful, Khodorkovsky argues.

            It is a profound mistake to compare the current situation with that in 1991, he continues. Soviet officials at that time had an ideological vision that they were servants of the people. Consequently, “they couldn’t allow themselves to shoot at the people.” But now the rulers of Russia are entirely different.

            “The powers that be now,” he says, “are a bandit grouping from the 1990s. Petersburg then was our Chicago. They then came to Moscow and organized a copy of the very same bandit Petersburg. For them to shoot at the crowd in a marketplace is no problem.” The people know that and Putin’s entourage does as well.

            Those in power today, he says, “don’t identify themselves even with the country. They feel themselves to be separate from the state. I consider that we had a normal state apparatus until recently and that this grouping in the Kremlin used them for the solution of their problems.” But now the balance has shifted to the bandits completely.

            Those who want a more normal state recognize that if they pursue it, the bandits in charge are quite prepared to destroy them. That makes it almost impossible for them to agree on any change away from Putin because any change carries with it the risk that they could pay for it with their lives. That helps Putin stay in power too.

            And what is worse is that those who weren’t that way when they came to office are increasingly conforming to that model, Khodorkovsky argues. Sergey Lavrov was a very different figure when he became foreign minister than he is now. Then he was capable of working with Western diplomats. Now, he simply mimics the bandits around him.

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