Former Russian Prime Minister and now exile opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov has warned of the devastating consequences for peace in Europe if Ukraine, which had been attacked by Russia, lost the war. “If Ukraine falls, the Baltic states will be next,” Kasyanov warned in a video interview with the AFP news agency. He appealed to the West not to make any concessions to Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin.

Kasyanov emphasized that he “categorically” rejects French President Emmanuel Macron’s assessment that Putin should not be “humiliated”. He is also extremely critical of demands that Ukraine cede areas to Russia in favor of a peace settlement with Moscow. “What did Putin do to deserve this?” Kasyanov asked. “I think that’s wrong and I hope the West won’t go down that path.”

He expects the Ukraine war to last up to two years, said Kasyanov, who heads the Russian opposition party Parnas and was considered a close ally of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in Moscow in 2015. It can also be assumed that Putin will be replaced in the foreseeable future by a “quasi-successor” controlled by the secret services, said Kasyanov. However, he is certain “that Russia will return to the path of building a democratic state” – even if this is “difficult, especially after this criminal war”.

“I have no doubt that the opposition will unite after this tragedy that we are all witnessing,” Kasyanov said. The European states are Russia’s “natural partners”; trust in them must be restored. However, in his view, the “de-Putinization” of Russia will take about a decade, said Kasyanov.

Putin has built a system based on fear and impunity over the past 20 years, the former prime minister said. “These are the achievements of a system that, with the support of Putin as head of state, is operating in an even more cynical, brutal manner than was the case in the final stages of the Soviet Union.” Essentially, Russia today is “a KGB system based on complete lawlessness.” It is clear that in the ranks of those responsible in Russia “no one expects punishment”.

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Kasyanov, now 64, was Prime Minister under Putin from 2000 to 2004. After his release, he switched to the opposition and became one of the most prominent critics of the Kremlin.