He was Vladimir Putin’s first prime minister, but Mikhail Kasyanov never imagined his former boss would unleash a full-scale war on Ukraine.
Speaking to AFP, Kassianov, Russia’s prime minister from 2000 to 2004, said he thought the war could last up to two years, but was convinced Russia could return to a democratic path. .
Mikhail Kassianov, 64, has always defended relations with the West as prime minister and said that, like many other Russian citizens, he never believed that a war could actually take place.
Kasyanov only realized that Putin was not bluffing when he saw him summoning the country’s top leaders to a security council meeting three days before the February 24 invasion.
“When I saw the meeting of the Russian Security Council, I realized that yes, there would be a war,” Kasyanov said.
The former prime minister added that he felt Putin was no longer clear-headed. “I know these people and, looking at them, I saw that Putin was already beside himself. Not in a medical sense, but in a political sense.”said. “I met another Poutine”he added.
After being sacked by Putin, Kasyanov joined the Russian opposition and became one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics. Mikhail is now the leader of the opposition People’s Freedom Party.
lack of laws
Kassianov said Putin had succeeded over the past 20 years in building a system based on impunity and fear.
“These are the achievements of a system which, with Putin’s encouragement as head of state, began to operate even more cynically and cruelly than in the later stages of the Soviet Union,” he said. he explains.
“Basically, it is a KGB system based on total illegality. It’s obvious that they don’t expect any punishment.”he pointed out.
Kasyanov said he left Russia because of the war and was living in Europe, but declined to reveal his whereabouts out of concern for his safety.
His close ally and opposition colleague Boris Nemtsov was shot near the Kremlin in 2015.
Putin’s best-known critic, Alexei Navalny, 46, was poisoned with a nerve agent in 2020 and is now in jail.
Kasyanov predicted the war could last up to two years and said it was imperative that Ukraine win. “If Ukraine falls, the Baltic countries will be next”defended.
“The outcome of the war will also determine the future of Russia,” he said.
Kasyanov said he “categorically” disagreed with French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion that Putin should not be humiliated, and he also chastised calls for Ukraine to cede territory and end at war.
“What did Putin do to deserve this?” he said. “That’s too pragmatic a position. I think that’s wrong and I hope the West doesn’t go down that road.”
Kasyanov believes Putin will eventually be replaced by a “quasi-successor” controlled by the security services. However, this successor will not be able to control the system for a long time and eventually Russia will hold free and fair elections.
“I am sure that Russia will return to the path of building a democratic state”he said.
Mikhail Kassianov estimated that it would take about a decade to complete the “decommunization” and “deputenization” of the country. “It’s going to be difficult, especially after this criminal war.”
He also believes that trust should be restored with European countries, which he described as Russia’s “natural partners”.
Critics had previously accused Russia’s opposition of being hopelessly divided, but Kasyanov said he was confident things would be different now. “I have no doubt that now, after the tragedy we are all witnessing, the opposition will unite.”
“The Russians will face an enormous task in rebuilding their country,” he admitted. “Everything will have to be rebuilt”, because “a whole set of economic and social reforms must be relaunched”.
“These are the enormous and difficult tasks that will have to be accomplished,” he concluded.