Russia’s richest man says Putin could start war with West over ‘domestic issues’

A man who was once said to be Russia’s richest has said that “domestic problems” could force Vladimir Putin into a military confrontation with the west, if his Ukraine invasion succeeds.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a businessman-turned-philanthropist, has been living in the UK since 2015 after he made made his fortune in the 1990s through currency trading and in the oil industry.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the outspoken Putin critic said that the threat of an escalation of the conflict to drag in NATO countries was serious if Putin achieved his goal of seizing the Donbas region in the southeast of Ukraine.

“If we don’t manage to deal with this plague in Ukraine, we’ll have to face it in other territories,” he told the newspaper.

“For sure, Putin is going to lose eventually. If he wins now in Ukraine he will, because of domestic problems, start a war with NATO. And he will eventually lose that war,” he added.

In 2003, the Putin dissident was jailed on tax evasion charges and fraud and spent ten years in prison but was pardoned shortly before the Winter Olympic Games in 2014.

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Khodorkovsky's comments come as the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged western leaders to continue their support for Ukraine, saying that despite the heavy cost of a protracted conflict "we must not let up".

“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine,” Mr Stoltenberg told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

“Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices.”

This comes ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid later this month, where officials are expected to agree to an assistance package for Ukraine.

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