Russian oligarch calls Ukraine conflict ‘a colossal mistake’

Russian oligarch and industrialist Oleg Deripaska on Tuesday called the conflict in Ukraine a “colossal mistake” as Russia launched a major offensive in February, remarks of rare ferocity about a representative of Russia’s elite.

• Also read: The Kremlin will stop its offensive if Ukraine capitulates

“Is it in Russia’s interest to destroy Ukraine? Of course not, that would be a colossal mistake,” he said at a rare press conference in Moscow.

Repeating this “colossal error” formula several times, he described the situation in Ukraine as “war,” a term but banned in Russia because the authorities have enforced the use of the term “military special operations.”

The oligarch, founder of the aluminum giant Rusal, also believed that no political regime change was to be expected in Russia.

“There is no potential for regime change,” he said, judging that “the opposition has been removed from the life of the country.”

Most of the anti-Vladimir-Putin opposition figures have been forced into exile or imprisoned, a repression that has increased with the offensive against Ukraine.

Mr Deripaska, who is the subject of Western sanctions, weighs $1.7 billion in 2022, up from $3.8 billion the year before, according to Forbes magazine.

In the early days of Russia’s offensive, and in the face of a barrage of Western sanctions, Mr Deripaska did not criticize the offensive directly, instead stressing that Russia faces an enormous economic challenge.

On Tuesday, Mr Deripaska criticized Russia’s response to the sanctions, lamenting that the authorities “120 days into the conflict have still not taken the necessary decisions” to mitigate the impact of the restrictions on the economy. Russian.

Sanctions “are of course more painful for Russia” than for the West, he said, “it’s obvious”.

In doing so, he contradicts President Vladimir Putin, who claims that Russia has resisted the sanctions but has hit consumers hard in the West, particularly because of higher energy prices.

In Russia, inflation has risen sharply and a large number of factories are at a standstill.

“It bothers me (to see) how quickly we got rid of what was accomplished in the 1990s and then got rid of what had been done in the 2000s,” he said in another thinly veiled criticism of the Kremlin .

Mr Putin is proud to have put an end to the “chaos” of the 1990s, marked by freedom of expression but also by the enforced march to capitalism after the collapse of the communist system that left the country bloodless.

If the Russian president has curtailed public liberties and never gotten a grip on corruption, he has credit for stabilizing Russia in the 2000s thanks to the oil spill that spawned a middle class after the sanctions.

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