Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is not going to plan, and the Russian military seems stalled at the moment. Some are arguing that Putin now has a new plan: destroy the country instead: An exiled Russian oligarch said he believes Russian leader Vladimir Putin has gone beyond trying to annex Ukraine and now wants to “destroy” the country.
Leonid Nevzlin, a former oil tycoon who was forced to flee Russia two decades ago, weighed in this week on what he thinks Putin intends to do next.
Nevzlin said in an interview published by The Times of Israel on Saturday that Putin was likely first looking to annex Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus but speculated that “everything has changed.”
“Putin is trying to destroy Ukraine. We understand it from this unbearable violence and the horrific nature of this war,” Nevzlin said, per the outlet.
“He destroys Russian-speaking cities, he destroys human beings. This is his way to take revenge — against Ukraine and against Zelenskyy,” Nevzlin told The Times, referring to Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Per the outlet, Nevzlin also posited that Putin’s wartime tactics mirror how Adolf Hitler fought during World War II.
“Did you see the field in Donbas that was sown with bombs and explosives? That’s his vision for Ukraine,” Nevzlin told The Times, referring to deadly litters of unexploded bombs and mines that remain embedded in combat zones.
Per the outlet, he added that the war, which began on 24 February, would likely “go on for a long time.”
In March, he called Putin a “psychopath.” In this weekend’s interview, Nevzlin said the Russian president was “not a state leader but a leader of a mafia with a vengeful and cowardly personality.”
Other oligarchs have also hit out at Putin in recent months.
In June, Mikhail Khodorkovsky — a Russian oligarch who was once Russia’s richest man — told the Financial Times that he thought Putin had stepped onto a path in Ukraine that would “eventually” lead to regime change in Russia.
“Had it not been for so many casualties, I would have said that I’m actually quite happy because he has embarked on a route that is going to lead to his demise,” said Khodorkovsky, per the outlet.
Cheryl Teh is a Senior Breaking News Reporter at Business Insider, where this first appeared.