Ex-shareholders were awarded compensation for the break-up of Yukos after its former owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003


  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky said a military defeat would be devastating for Putin
  • He added a Russian victory would embolden Putin to take aim at NATO borders
  • Khodorkovsky is already preparing for a regime change in Russia

Former Russian oil businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin would lose allies if Ukraine and its Western partners defeat Russia in the ongoing war.

Khodorkovsky, the founder of the progressive alliance Open Russia who got jailed for tax and fraud charges, said in an interview with France24 that Putin has no choice but to push through with the Russian invasion of Ukraine to keep his support base of "patriotic nationalists."

Khodorkovsky claimed that Putin knew a military defeat in Ukraine would likely lead to a reduction in his grip on power.

"[I]f Putin were to face military defeat, then everyone would turn against him. And he knows that," Khodorkovsky said.

The formerly richest man in Russia also suggested that if Putin succeeds in his military offensive against Ukraine, the Russian president would be emboldened to take his aim at NATO borders.

But despite Putin's effort to see a Russian victory in Ukraine at all costs, Khodorkovsky is already preparing for a regime change in Russia.

In a separate interview with Swiss media outlet Blick, Khodorkovsky said there are two scenarios of a Putin-free Russia.

Khodorkovsky described the first scenario as the "Yugoslavian model," in which the current Russian Federation would be divided into several states. But the Russian tycoon warned that this path would be "very dangerous" and could lead to nuclear conflicts and new authoritarian regimes.

The other path that Khodorkovsky is advocating is a complete reconstruction of Russia and changing the political system toward a parliamentary and federalist model similar to Switzerland.

Khodorkovsky said it would take at least 20 years to implement his plan for a new Russia, and they have to convince Russians about it.

"We have to convince Russian society of our model. For that, we need the media. The elites should know that there is a way out of their situation without having their heads chopped off," Khodorkovsky said.

"In addition, we want to convince the West not to use the sanctions to divide Russia but to rebuild it," he added.

When asked if he would be willing to become the president or a cabinet minister in the new Russia, Khodorkovsky said he did not want to burn out, adding that he wanted to abolish the presidential office because it would "pursue the same goals as Putin."

Khodorkovsky had spent ten years in a Russian labor camp after authorities charged him with fraud.

He was pardoned by Putin in 2013 and lived in Switzerland. He is currently living in London, U.K., in exile.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pictured on February 24, 2022 after he launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine