Mikhail Khodorkovsky urges the West to send more weapons to Ukraine

Mikhail Khodorkovsky called on the West to step up arms deliveries to Ukraine or risk handing victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invading forces.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, said the huge economic damage caused to the European economy every day by soaring gas prices should prompt Ukraine’s allies to step up arms deliveries and to hasten the end of the war.

“If they had supplied $50 billion worth of weapons to Ukraine, the situation today, both for Ukraine and for Putin, would be very different. We just have to understand that there are situations where the problem can only be solved by force,” he said at the FT Weekend festival. “If you ask me how can the West help Ukraine? I’ll give you a one-word answer: weapons.

He also warned that failure to increase arms deliveries could have disastrous consequences. “With the level of arms supply that we see now, Ukraine is very likely to – or may – lose this war. Putin realizes this very well.

Gas prices in Europe have soared since Russia launched its attack on Ukraine in February. On Friday, Russia indefinitely suspended deliveries of natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, tightening supplies and heightening expectations of a widespread European recession.

The German government on Sunday announced a 65 billion euro package to help contain the damage caused by soaring household and business energy bills.

Khodorkovsky also warned Ukraine’s allies of the dangers of seeking to engage or negotiate with Moscow.

“When Western leaders say we should allow Putin to save face, I don’t think they understand it. I think they misunderstand the situation,” he said. “He thinks he should go as far as possible and then have a short respite after convincing Western leaders that they should talk to him and then go further.”

Khodorkovsky, when asked if the economic sanctions imposed on Russia were having the desired effect, said people should stop focusing on Moscow’s finances and instead look at the wider impact.

“Your wallet might build up with cash, but there’s no goods in the stores, you’ll still starve to death,” he said. “This is exactly what is happening in the Russian economy today, especially in high tech. Today, weapon factories simply cannot produce high-quality modern weapons because they lack electronics.

He also said that the war and the resulting sanctions had caused a severe brain drain from Russia that would undermine Moscow’s capacity for military aggression.

“These young professionals who are leaving Russia today for the west, they are actually taking with them the know-how to develop themselves technologically. And of course, this is a blow, not only to Putin’s economy, but also to its ability to continue the war.

A longtime critic of Putin, Khodorkovsky called the Russian president a “gangster” and a “mafia”. After publicly complaining about corruption and trying to sell his Yukos oil company to ExxonMobil, the then oligarch was sentenced to prison for tax evasion. After his release in 2014, he moved to the UK where he now lives in exile.

Khodorkovsky dismissed suggestions that the recent death of Ravil Maganov, the chairman of Lukoil, was politically motivated. Maganov fell from a sixth-floor window of a Moscow hospital last week.

“He was seriously ill. And his colleagues – the ones I was lucky enough to talk to – think he really saw no chance of survival because of the state of health he was in,” Khodorkovsky said.

However, he pointed the finger at the FSB, Russia’s state security services, for a car bombing that killed the daughter of a top Putin ally.

“At the moment all we can do is speculate,” he said of the death of Daria Dugina, who died when her car exploded in a Moscow suburb in August. The vehicle belonged to his father Alexander Dugin, a prominent supporter of the Russian invasion. Khodorkovsky suggested that these ultranationalists could become a problem for Putin if he chose to suspend or slow down military action in Ukraine.

“It seems more likely to be an FSB provocation,” he said.

The full interview and other content from the FT Weekend festival can be viewed by subscribing here.

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