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EXCLUSIVE War in Ukraine Russia Interview

“We are Forming an Alternative Parliament for Russia” – Interview with Ilya Ponomarev

In an exclusive interview for Kyiv Post, prominent figure of Russian opposition Ilya Ponomarev discusses the mobilization in Russia, the goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his command, and

In an exclusive interview for Kyiv Post, prominent figure of Russian opposition Ilya Ponomarev discusses the mobilization in Russia, the goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his command, and the alternative authorities set to lead Russia after Putin’s regime falls.

Is the Kremlin succeeding in its mobilization actions?

It seems that Putin couldn’t reach his target to mobilize 300,000 people. I believe that the unofficial target was even higher – perhaps around one million conscripts.

According to the latest report of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, 225,000 have been mobilized, including 70,000 volunteers. It means that the number the Kremlin has managed to recruit was even lower than the official target.

Why is Putin’s army now turning to shell Ukrainian energy infrastructure?

The logic of these attacks is quite clear. Putin wants Ukrainians to grow tired of this war and push the government for peace negotiations with Russia on the Kremlin’s terms. He hopes that Ukraine will give up its territories and lunge into a depression. However, the reality is that Ukraine is not willing to do this. Every Russian attack inspires more anger and resistance.

Compare it to London in 1940 – the more the Nazis shelled London, the more united Britain became. I think Putin’s attempts are futile, but he is continuing on regardless.

According to the latest polls by the Levada Center, half of Russians believe it is necessary to continue the “special operation” in Ukraine, while half believe peace negotiations should now begin. Will these opinions affect Kremlin policy?

Sociological polls appear quite contradictory in Russia. The question about whether you support the so-called special operation results in 60 percent in favor. However, if you ask whether we should start peace negotiations or continue fighting, only 25 percent favor continued fighting and 50% want to enter negotiations.

Ordinary Russians don’t know what they want. They don’t want to interfere because they know they cannot influence Russian policy. All decisions are taken by the high command and by Putin personally, and they don’t want to give a “wrong answer” to a poll because they are afraid that they might be prosecuted and so on. I think that the general attitude of the population is to stay as far away from this war as possible, and only around 25 percent support the war in reality.

Do you think the Kremlin doesn’t care about people’s opinions?

No, Putin does care. He has always been cautious about public opinion, and at the same time, he knows that he can manipulate it. The Kremlin is doing its best to influence public opinion using propaganda to keep people mobilized and supportive. Putin understands Russians very well and can sense where the “red lines” are. When he decided on mobilization, he knew it was a risky move.

That said, Putin had no choice. He either faced relatively immediate defeat or the option of shelling Ukrainian civilians to try and force a negotiation. Putin is trying to influence Western countries to push Ukraine for peace negotiations and is using all possibilities to do so. Elon Musk, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and others are starting to persuade Ukrainians to start negotiations.

So, is Putin shelling Ukrainian infrastructure to force Ukraine into peace negotiations?

Yes, I think that’s what he wants because he needs to suspend fighting and stabilize the front. After all, he is losing. Putin’s army is retreating and he wants to buy some time to regroup, reinforce, fortify, and start a counteroffensive.

In November, a congress of Russian deputies in exile will be held in Poland. Has the Russian opposition begun to form alternative authorities that will lead after Putin’s regime falls?

This is happening for the first time in Russia’s history. We will form a parallel parliament, which will become the transitional Russian administration. It will be in the hands of Ukraine and foreign nations to recognize it as the alternative to Putin. The established organization should develop armed resistance and start efficiently fighting against Putin.

Currently, we have troops that are fighting efficiently together with Ukrainians on the front line as part of the “Freedom of Russia” legion. Also, the partisan movement in Russia is growing, but it’s at a very early stage and we need to grow tenfold to become efficient. We are at the beginning of this path, but I don’t think it will take too long. Putin recently celebrated his birthday. I am sure it will be his last in power.

What consequences will the recognition of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria have?

I think it will send very powerful signal. Ukraine has to take a proactive approach to becoming a key player in Russian politics – a very bold and important move. This will also put Ramzan Kadyrov, the current head of Chechnya appointed by the Kremlin, in a difficult position.

Kadyrov came from being a fighter in the Chechen resistance to the Russian Federation, and he claims to have helped ensure independence for Chechnya. But recognition of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria would lead to Kadyrov being recognized by the Chechen people as a traitor. His influence would be significantly decreased in Chechnya. At the same time, Kadyrov could stand against Putin, saying – OK, now is the time to claim our independence.

Ukraine now recognizes the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as a temporarily occupied state. The Baltic states and Eastern European countries would probably also recognize Chechnya’s independence, which cannot be ignored.

Will the Russian Federation fall apart in the future, and do you personally want that to happen?

I hope this will not happen. Russia falling apart will cause chaos and that’s not desirable. It would be no good for Ukrainians, Europeans and Americans. We need a stable and democratic Russia. The future of Russia should be as part of the global community – working with other nations as a normal civilized western country. I dream about such a future in Russia, and I will personally do everything possible to achieve it.

The Congress that you just mentioned in Poland next month would stay in the same position.

What is the probability of a military coup in Russia? When will Putin meet his maker?

I think a military coup is unlikely because the Russian military shows considerable cowardice. They are not brave people at all. It is worth remembering that in Joseph Stalin’s times, brave heroes went to the slaughter without any word, and now there are no heroes. However, the split within elites can result in a different type of coup that civilians can force on Putin’s circle. The current ruling forces need to feel the danger that is coming from below. They need to feel the spirit of the upcoming revolution that will destroy them physically. In this situation, they will start to act.

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