The West should have acted years ago in arming Ukraine with weapons and imposing severe sanctions on Russia – a move that would have “100pc” deterred Vladimir Putin from launching his invasion earlier this year, according to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled oligarch-turned-dissident.
Mr Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia before his persecution and imprisonment by the Kremlin, said Western governments bore “significant responsibility” for the conflict in Ukraine, having failed to take action against Putin after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The former oil and gas tycoon, who at one point had a personal fortune estimated to be worth €15bn, compared the West’s inaction to being slapped by a gangster and handing over money.
“When a gangster comes to you, not just a London hooligan, but a proper gangster, and he slaps you in the face, all you can do is to give him your wallet in the hope that he’s not going to get your trousers off,” Mr Khodorkovsky said.
“Of course, there is some significant responsibility. The annexation of Crimea in 2014. People decided that they can continue business as usual. Putin took it as a weakness. And we have what we have.
“If they had put the sanctions then like they did now, and if Ukrainians had been given the military weapons like they have been given today, then, with 100pc probability, Putin wouldn’t have gone into war now,” he said. “But what happened happened.”
However, Mr Khodorkovsky, who was stripped of his wealth by the Kremlin and jailed in 2003 for 10 years for challenging Putin’s regime, also questioned the extent to which the West’s sanctions were slowing the Russian war machine.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects a 10pc contraction of Russian gross domestic product as a result of the measures, but analysts do not believe they have been effective in a military sense..
“I think sanctions nowadays, it’s not a possibility to stop the war,” said Mr Khodorkovsky, now a leading critic of the Kremlin. “They will limit Putin’s militaristic possibilities, but not now – at a later stage. The only way to help Ukraine is through weapons and the education of Ukrainian military. That’s all.”
He also believes countries are turning their focus away from the war: “Putin understands that. He uses time like his support.” (© Independent News Service)