He was the first Prime Minister of Vladimir Putin, but Mikhail Kasyanov never imagined that his former boss would unleash a full-scale war with Ukraine in the worst nightmare.
From 2000 to 2004, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told AFP in a video interview that he expected the war to last up to two years, but said he was confident that Russia could return to a democratic path.
The 64-year-old, who defended close ties with Western nations as prime minister, said he, like many other Russians, did not believe it would actually happen weeks before the war.
Kasyanov only realized that Putin was not bluffing when he saw Putin summoning the country’s supreme leader for a theater meeting of the Security Council three days before the February 24 invasion. was.
“When I saw the meeting of the Security Council of Russia, I realized it was, yes, there would be a war,” Kasyanov said.
He added that he felt that Putin was no longer thinking properly.
“I just knew these people, and when I looked at them, I found that Putin was already out of it. In a political sense, not in a medical sense,” he said. ..
“I knew another Putin.”
After being dismissed by Putin, Kasyanov joined the Russian opposition and became one of the Kremlin’s loudest critics.
He is currently the leader of the opposition People’s Freedom Party, or Parnas.
According to Kasyanov, Putin, a former KGB agent who turns 70 in October, has been successful in building a system based on immunity and fear for the past 20 years.
“These are the result of a system that, with Putin’s encouragement as head of state, began to work even in more cynical and cruel ways than the final stages of the Soviet Union,” he said.
“In essence, this is a completely lawless KGB system. It’s clear that they don’t expect any punishment.”
Kasyanov said he had left Russia for the war and lived in Europe, but refused to reveal his whereabouts for security concerns.
Boris Nemtsov, his close ally and opposition politician, was shot near the Kremlin in 2015.
Putin’s most famous critic, Alexei Navalny, 46, was poisoned by nerve agents in 2020 and is now in jail.
Kasyanov predicted that the war could last up to two years and said it was essential for Ukraine to win.
“If Ukraine collapses, the Baltic states will come next,” he said.
He said the outcome of the war would also determine Russia’s future.
Kasyanov said he “resolutely” opposed French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal that Putin should not be humiliated.
He also refused to ask Ukraine to ceded territory to end the war.
“What did Putin deserve this?” He said. “This is an overly practical position.
“I believe this is wrong and I hope the West will not follow that path.”
Kasyanov believes Putin will eventually be replaced by a “quasi-successor” managed by security services.
But successors have long been out of control of the system, and Russia will eventually hold free and fair elections, the former Prime Minister said.
“I am confident that Russia will be back on the road to building a democracy,” he said.
He estimated that it would take about 10 years to implement the “non-communization” and “non-communization” of the country.
“This will be difficult, especially after this criminal war.”
He said there was a need to reestablish trust with the European countries that Russia called “natural partners.”
Critics have accused Russian opponents of desperate divisions in the past, but Kasyanov said he was convinced that things were different now.
“There is no doubt that opposition will unite after the tragedy we all witness.”
He said the Russians would face the big challenge of rebuilding their country.
“Everything needs to be rebuilt. Basically, all of the economic and social reforms need to be redone from the beginning.
“These are huge and difficult tasks that need to be done.”