VIDEO: Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Open Russia and Building Civil Society: A Conversation With Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky file photo

The Council on Foreign Relations hosted an event featuring former Russia oil oligarch, and former Russian prison inmate, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. “Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Open Russia and Building Civil Society: A Conversation With Mikhail Khodorkovsky,” is archived at

Among other things, Khodorkovsky argued that Putin has become so entrenched as a strongman, that any successor might be regarded as merely temporary. This prospect could complicate succession and perhaps stoke fears in Putin that a successor would have to get rid of him entirely:

‘After Putin returned back to the presidency, everybody understands that it’s going to be very hard for him to leave calmly and peacefully. It’s hard to imagine a strong successor who would not be compelled to get rid of Putin, because if he doesn’t do so, all of society will continue to consider that he’s just in the office temporarily. And I’m convinced that Putin understands this, and this doesn’t make it any easier for him to make a decision for a soft departure.’

The former head of YUKOS also suggests that Putin is not solely to blame for the challenges facing Russia’s political system:

‘I believe that the problem in Russia is not only a problem of Putin. Putin is merely a symbol of the problem. The problem itself is the lack of a law-based state. It’s in a constitution that has made it impossible to have a balance of powers. To change this is possible only with the help of a constitutional assembly, which as we know…is the only thing that can determine the structure of power for the transition period, the period of transition from a totalitarian figure of a president to a system of separation of powers between president…parliament, judiciary, et cetera, civil society, all of the things that are associated with that.’

Click here for the original archive at CFR