Billionaire Russian-Israeli businessman Leonid Nevzlin, who earlier his month announced that he was giving up his Russian citizenship, called President Vladimir Putin a “psychopath” during a Channel 12 interview on Friday.
Nevzlin, who knew Putin before he left the former Soviet Union, said he was embarrassed to be Russian as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine carries on.
He called for the world to maintain an aggressive stance against Putin, who he said currently feels like a “cornered rat.”
Nevzlin cited a biography of Putin in which he is quoted as saying about himself: “Don’t push the rat into a corner, it is likely to attack and bite.”
“You ask, how is that relevant? Because he feels like a cornered rat. And why? Because he is a psychopath. He pushed himself into the corner,” Nevzlin said.
Nevzlin said Putin had a serious inferiority complex, suggesting that it was because he was short. “I apologize, I don’t want to offend anybody but I see a lot of these ‘Napoleons’ in life.”
He also called Putin a “war criminal,” adding that even though he considered him a psychopath, he was still rational and wanted to live. “He’s just not smart.”
“Putin is without a doubt a war criminal,” Nevzlin said. “His craziness won’t hide that.”
“Again, he is a psychopath, but he won’t just have to live with that diagnosis, he must sit on the defendant’s bench at the war crimes court,” he said.”
He also said Russia’s apparent failures in the war were due to Putin’s lack of “strategic thinking.”
“He has got involved in a long story and now has no idea how to get himself out of it,” Nevzlin said.
He praised Israel’s efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine and said Israel has a real “advantage” thanks to its international standing.
Nevzlin has been a longtime critic of Putin and was forced to flee Russia.
Nevzlin was the most high-profile of the oil executive associates of Mikhail Khodorkovsky who fled Russian arrest warrants in 2003. Khodorkovsky, the onetime head of the Yukos oil giant, was jailed for several years after clashing with Putin.
Nevzlin was found guilty, in absentia, on several counts of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to life behind bars. In 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Nevzlin accusing Moscow of carrying out “a ruthless campaign to destroy [him] and to expropriate [his] assets.”
In the years since, Nevzlin has established himself as an influential businessman and philanthropist. He was president of the Russian Jewish Congress, became chairman of the board of trustees at Beit Hatfutsot — the Museum of the Jewish People — and is a member of several bodies of the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund, Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University. He also owns 25% of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
His daughter Irina is married to Yuli Edelstein, a top politician in the Likud party and a former political prisoner in the Soviet Union.