Khodorkovsky: Only severe sanctions against the oligarchy will end the war

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of Yukos oil company
Sophia Kemboski / D

  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky told CNN that the West should stop all international financial flows to Russia.
  • Banning Putin’s bankers and punishing the oligarchy is “the only thing that will stop the war.”
  • Khodorkovsky said the invasion could lead to Putin’s ouster.

Exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky said the West should cut off all financial flows to Russia and impose sanctions on all oligarchs to deter Russia from invading Ukraine again.

“This is the only way to stop the war,” the former CEO of Russian oil company Yukos told CNN.

In response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, many Western countries and trading blocs have already imposed severe financial sanctions on Russia. These include banning transactions with the Russian Central Bank, blocking access to the express international payment system by some Russian banks, blocking trade in luxury goods and freezing the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin, other Kremlin leaders and many oligarchs.

Sanctions, aimed at crippling the Russian economy and thus cutting off funding for the military, have so far pushed the ruble to record lows and contributed to high inflation in Russia.

“The blow to the financial system has been massive,” Khodorkovsky told CNN. “But right now, only 70 percent of financial flows are blocked.”

“I have never called for sanctions against Russia as a whole, but the financial flows must be stopped,” Khodorkovsky said.

To stop the invasion, the West must block the remaining 30 percent of money flowing into Russia. To do this, more Russian bank accounts would have to be frozen and Putin’s bankers banned, the Russian follower, who lives in exile in London.

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“If we want to stop the war, all bank accounts of Russia must be frozen,” he said, adding that “there can be no exceptions.”

Khodorkovsky said the Russian oligarchs are “only followers of Putin” and “can’t influence him”. But it is important to “stop all Putin’s financiers until the war is over. They all need to be banned. This is the only thing that will stop the war.”

Khodorkovsky also said the sanctions would cause problems around the world, but they were “not comparable” to the situation in Ukraine.

In a previous interview with CNN, he said the invasion could lead to Putin’s ouster. In his last conversation with the broadcaster, he reiterated this expectation.

“If the West continues to support Ukraine, then (Putin’s) defeat is inevitable,” Khodorkovsky said.

Between 1997 and 2004, Khodorkovsky held the position of CEO of Yukos, which at that time was the largest oil company in Russia. He was briefly the richest person in Russia in 2003 when Forbes estimated his net worth at $15 billion.

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In 2001, Khodorkovsky founded Open Russia, a pro-Kremlin political organization focused on democracy and human rights, which was closed by Russian authorities in 2006. A new edition of the group is closed in 2021.

Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 and charged with fraud and tax evasion. In 2005 he was sentenced to nine years in prison. The European Court of Human Rights rejected Khodorkovsky’s claim that his arrest was politically motivated, but ruled that his rights had been violated.

In 2013, Putin pardoned Khodorkovsky and released him from prison a year earlier. He was exiled from Russia and now lives in London.

This text was translated from English by Romanos Otti. You can read the original version here.


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