: Daily Beast: Mikhail Khodorkovsky is Putin's most powerful enemy (in exile)

12:07 Mar. 18, 2016

Daily Beast: Mikhail Khodorkovsky is Putin's most powerful enemy (in exile)

Former imprisoned Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks to journalists during a roundtable at a hotel in Kiev, Ukraine, March 10, 2014 (AP Photo)

Russia may not be ready for the ex-billionaire to return, but his arguments are gaining ground

On a recent afternoon the Open Russia Foundation, which basically represents the brains and money behind the Russian opposition, held an event at its headquarters on Hanover Square in London. And the predictions for Russia's future seemed to grow darker by the minute.

Watch also Armed police raid offices of Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Moscow

Two Russian scientists, Yelena Lukyanova from Moscow's Higher School of Economics and Dr. Vladimir Pastukhov from Oxford's St. Antony's College exchanged speculative arguments about the chance Russia could one day fall apart. How much longer will President Vladimir Putin hold on? Participants wondered. And what will become of Russia after he's gone?

On the back row of the rather thin audience, the foundation's sponsor, exiled Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovksy—in torn jeans—was busy reading an e-book. Only once did the host of the event peer up through his spectacles to glance at the event's participants.

Watch also Kremlin critic Khodorkovsky summoned for questioning on new criminal charges

The master of his little empire on Hanover Square, Khodorkovsky has spent years in Russian jails and, most recently, was charged by Moscow with the 1998 murder of Neteyugansk mayor Vladimir Petukhov. In 2010 Putin said about Khodorkovsky, "This man has blood on his hands."

He's not going back there any time soon. But he who formerly was the richest man in Russia has a long-term goal: to outlive Putin while preparing his countrymen for major reforms.

Watch also Did Putin use Syria as a training ground for Russian Air and Naval Forces?

"I plan to return to the country; I will come back as soon as the regime begins to fall apart," Khodorkovsky told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview last week. "And now I am doing a lot, everything I can, to arrange it so that when this regime begins to fall, the collapse happens in a different way, so the damaging mistakes made in the early ‘90s are not repeated."

It was the chaos of the crumbling Soviet empire and the collapsed Russian economy 20 years ago that opened the door for Putin's brand of order and national pride.

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