PARIS: He was Vladimir Putin’s first prime minister but Mikhail Kasyanov never in his worst nightmares imagined that his former boss would unleash a full-scale war on Ukraine.
Speaking to AFP in a video interview, Kasyanov, Russia’s prime minister from 2000 to 2004, said he expected the war could last up to two years but he was convinced Russia could return to a democratic path.
The 64-year-old, who championed close ties with the West as prime minister, said that, like many other Russians, he did not believe in the weeks ahead of the war that it would actually happen.
Kasyanov only understood that Putin was not bluffing when he saw him summon the country’s top leadership for a theatrical meeting of the security council three days before the invasion on February 24.
“When I saw the meeting of Russia’s Security Council I realised, yes, there will be a war,” Kasyanov said.
He added that he felt that Putin was already not thinking properly.
“I just know these people and by looking at them I saw that Putin is already out of it. Not in a medical sense but in political terms,” he said.
“I knew a different Putin.”
After being sacked by Putin, Kasyanov joined Russia’s opposition and became one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics.
He is now the leader of the opposition People’s Freedom party, or Parnas.
Kasyanov said Putin, a former KGB agent who turns 70 in October, has managed over the past 20 years to build a system based on impunity and fear.
“These are the achievements of a system that, with the encouragement of Putin as head of state, has started operating even in a more cynical, cruel manner than in the final stages of the Soviet Union,” he said.
“Essentially, this is a KGB system based on complete lawlessness. It is clear that they do not expect any punishment.”
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