Kremlin critic Khodorkovsky calls on Russians to ‘sabotage’ Putin’s regime

London-based Russian billionaire says he opposes ‘terrorist methods,’ but other courses of action available to disrupt war in Ukraine

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

In this July 24, 2018 file photo, Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks during an interview by The Associated Press in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
In this July 24, 2018 file photo, Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks during an interview by The Associated Press in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled Russian oligarch and harsh critic of Vladamir Putin, encouraged on Monday those still living in Russia to embark on a campaign of “sabotage” against the country’s regime in order to undermine the government and its invasion of Ukraine.

Khodorkovsky said in an interview with the Guardian that tactics against Putin’s regime could include spraying antiwar graffiti in public, obstructing supply lines to the war, or burning down conscription offices, depending on activists’ individual appetite for risk.

“We need to explain to people what they can do, persuade them that they should do it, and also help people if as a result, they end up in a dangerous situation,” he said, and added that “armed resistance” may arise as a possible mode of opposition.

However, Khodorkovsky emphasized his opposition to “terrorist methods that harm unarmed people,” and slammed the killing of Darya Dugina, daughter of Russian nationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, who some called “Putin’s brain.”

Khodorkovsky, whose father is Jewish, vocally opposed Putin during his first years in office in the early 2000s. He was chair of Russia’s Yukos oil company when he was arrested in 2003, and subsequently imprisoned for fraud and embezzlement. The charges were panned by Kremlin critics as an effort by the Russian president to silence one of his enemies.

He left Russia immediately after being released from prison in 2013 and currently resides in London, participating in and funding opposition activities to Putin’s rule.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the development of the country’s metallurgical sector via a video conference at the Kremlin in Moscow on August 1, 2022. (Pavel Byrkin / Sputnik / AFP)

Khodorkovsky called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “fundamental moment” and said that his views on the best tactics to oppose the Kremlin became “completely different” after February 24.

While hopeful that Putin’s regime would eventually be replaced by a more democratic, parliamentary system, he warned it was “rather unlikely” such a process would take place without violence.

However, the oil tycoon explained in the interview that he was opposed to a ban on tourist visas for Russians — proposed in several European countries — arguing it would alienate those who believe “Russia should develop on a European path.”

“If Putin lives another 10 or 15 years it would really lower the number of European-oriented Russians, and I don’t think this is good for anyone except Putin,” he said.

Khodorkovsky’s new book, “The Russia Conundrum,” an analysis of Putin’s rule and Russia’s feud with the West, goes on sale on September 8.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russian authorities have clamped down on dissent against the regime, forbidding any reference to the conflict as a war and arresting those who dare to publicly demonstrate against the government’s actions.

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