Kremlin critic Khodorkovsky urges Russians: stop Putin's Ukraine war

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Former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky poses for a pictured after an interview with Reuters in central London, Britain, January 18, 2021. REUTERS / Henry Nicholls

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LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon who fell foul of the Kremlin, urged Russians to oppose President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, casting the conflict as an attempt by the Kremlin leader's entourage to hold onto power.

"We need to be clear that it is Putin and his entourage who started the war in order to hold onto their power - not the Russian people," Khodorkovsky said. "Unleashing a war of aggression and using the armed forces for personal gain signifies that a junta led by Putin has seized power in Russia."

"Friends, compatriots, I urge you to use every opportunity to oppose this war," Khodorkovsky said. "The war will be fatal for the development of Russian society and a critical factor for Russian statehood."

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Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was arrested on a plane in Siberia in 2003 and jailed for massive tax evasion and fraud and his once mighty oil company, Yukos, was split apart.

The Kremlin cast him as a common criminal. Khodorkovsky denied the charges and was released in 2013 after spending 10 years in custody. He now lives in Britain.

Putin, Russia's paramount leader since 1999, said the United States has ignored Russian interests since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union and was directly threatening Russia by enlarging the NATO military alliance.

Putin and his most influential ministers cast Ukraine as a U.S. puppet that is being used in a bold attempt to destroy Russia and its civilisation.

"It is the duty of every decent person to take part in the anti-war movement, to disobey the orders of the junta," Khodorkovsky said.

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Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kate Holton

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