By waging war in Ukraine, Putin shortened his time in power, opponent says

By deciding to go to war with Ukraine, Vladimir Putin “clearly shortened his time in power,” said Leonid Volkov, a close friend of Alexei Navalny, the main opponent of the Russian president.

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By invading Ukraine, “Putin has clearly lowered the likelihood of the scenario that he remains in the Kremlin until his death…and as he intended,” Volkov said in an interview with AFP, on the sidelines of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

For the opponent, the Russian president “made a miscalculation” by launching his troops against the neighboring country on February 24, and this invasion is doomed to failure.

Mr. Volkov acknowledges that “Putin manages well to sell his propaganda” and to justify the invasion in the eyes of the part of the Russian population which has no other source of information than state television.

But insists Mr. Volkov, the Russian elites “live very badly the economic disaster, the losses (human), the restrictions and the sanctions. They will start thinking about a change of regime or a change of system”.

The international community “should reach out to Putin’s intimates and offer them guarantees of security if they decide to abandon him”, advises this computer specialist, who had to leave Russia when Alexei Navalny has just been sentenced himself to nine years of detention in a penal colony with drastic conditions.

“I am convinced that once Putin leaves, whatever the reason, Alexei will be released from prison,” explains Mr. Volkov.

For him, the latest verdict against Alexeï Navalny “means nothing”.

“Navalny is Putin’s personal political prisoner, and all these legal technicalities mean nothing. Only Putin can decide to keep him in prison or release him,” said the man who sees himself “as one of the main targets” of the Kremlin.

He lives outside Russia to escape prosecution and to continue to manage the organization set up by Mr. Navalny.

“I try to live a normal life, because you can’t really protect yourself from things like Novichok,” he says, pointing to his cup of tea. “To live in fear would be counterproductive”.

Moscow, which denies in block, is accused of having used this nerve agent to try to eliminate critics of the regime in the United Kingdom in 2018, but also Mr. Navalny in Russia.

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