Khodorkovsky said in an interview aired on LRT TV on Monday that a collapse of the regime could be triggered by an unexpected event that would provoke public outrage, such as the deadly fire at a shopping center in the Western Siberian city of Kemerovo that claimed dozens of lives.
“Russia’s usual 15-year power cycle ended in 2014. This is not superstition. This is due to the rate of generation change in the state administration, after which the system of power became unstable,” he said.
“Putin stepped over that dividing line by seizing Crimea. It was a public shock that helped to get fresh energy, a new legitimacy for some time. But the basic problem is still there.”
In Khodorkovsky’s words, Russia’s aging government is no longer capable of responding adequately to challenges.
“While the governing elite is ageing, the average age of the state apparatus remains the same. There is a gap not only in terms of age, but also in terms of guarantor. A 55-year-old Putin is a guarantor for the average 40-year-old apparatus, but a 66-year-old Putin is much less of a guarantor for the apparatus whose average age remains 40 years,” he said.
“And it happens that the elite stops responding effectively to challenges and these challenges grow bigger. We saw recently the tragedy of Winter Cherry in Kemerovo. It took long for them to respond adequately,” Khodorkovsky said.
“A black swan, that is, an unexpected event, can occur today, tomorrow or never. But we must be ready for it,” he said.
“Apart from a natural, inevitable fall of the regime, a collapse due to unexpected factors is now possible at any moment. This was unlikely until 2014. Now, it is likely at any moment.”
“For us, the Russian opposition, it is crucial that, as a result of this, the same criminal government does not renovate itself, and that the country returns to the normal European path of development.”
Khodorkovsky, who has lived abroad since his release from prison in December 2013, last week took part in the annual Vilnius Russia Forum, which traditionally brings together the Russian opposition and human rights activists.