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A Putin critic in exile has said that Trump has harmed Russians’ opinion of America

former President Donald TrumpHis time in power damaged the United States’ image among ordinary Russians, according to one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strongest critics.

Hand over power and Capitol Riots“He dealt a blow to America’s reputation as a moral leader in the world, especially in the eyes of the Russian public,” Mikhail Khodorkovsky told NBC News in an exclusive interview in London.

The former oil mogul, who was believed to be the richest man in Russia, also called on President Joe Biden to use targeted sanctions against Putin’s inner circle.

“Western leaders should not deal with Putin as a leader,” said Khodorkovsky, 57. “They must understand that the man in front of them is a mafia boss, a totalitarian ruler, and a godfather.”

Last year, Putin referred to Khodorkovsky that “crook. “

Russian President Vladimir Putin at his residence in Novo Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, in February.Alexey Druzhinin / Sputnik / Reuters

Khodorkovsky was exiled from Russia in 2013, after spending 10 years in prison for fraud, tax evasion and other economic crimes. Several international human rights organizations said the prosecution was a political retaliation for his public criticism of Putin and his funding of opposition parties in parliament, and had become a symbol of what critics say is the Kremlin’s misuse of the courts for political purposes. His sentence has been criticized by the United States and Europe.

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After engaging in small business as a student communist leader in Moscow under Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms in the late 1980s, Khodorkovsky was still in his thirties when he emerged from the chaos of Soviet collapse as one of the richest “oligarchs” of Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin.

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But his company, Yukos, was dismantled and sold, and most of it went to the state oil company Rosneft, allowing the Kremlin to reassert its control over much of the country’s oil sector.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil mogul, was once believed to be the richest man in Russia.NBC News

Pointing to “discord and fragmentation in American society” and false allegations that the US election was rigged, Khodorkovsky said, Putin and his allies used the final weeks of the Trump presidency to advance their cause. He added that they took advantage of the chaos in America to discredit the American system and praise their system.

But he said that four years of Trump’s rule showed that US institutions are “very strong.”

“They resist even populists like Trump,” he said, adding that Putin “destroyed the institutions in Russia.”

Khodorkovsky said the recent protests against the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny would not be enough to change the regime.

Navalny, 44, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison last month after a Moscow court converted the suspended sentence in a fraud case in 2014 to a full prison sentence. The European Court of Human Rights had previously considered that the conviction was politically motivated.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny during the announcement of a court ruling in Moscow, in February.Simonovsky District Court / Reuters File

The decision came days later Thousands of people They were arrested all over Russia at rallies in support of Navalny, who was Toxicity He nearly died during a corruption investigation in Siberia in the summer. He was airlifted to Germany for treatment after Russian doctors found no signs of poisoning.

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It was later determined that he had been poisoned with nerve gas from the Soviet era NovichukWhich is what Navalny claims Putin ordered. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.

On Sunday, it emerged that Navalny had been transferred to a penal colony in the Vladimir region, according to a statement issued by the Public Monitoring Committee in Moscow, which advocates for prisoners’ rights and has access to detainees.

Russia’s state-owned news agency said Navalny would spend his term in penal colony No. 2 in the town of Pokrov, 60 miles east of Moscow.

An officer walks near the penal colony N2 gate, where Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was taken on Monday.Dimitar Delkov / AFP – Getty Images

Khodorkovsky said that the peaceful protests would not succeed if it tried to remove Putin from power. “If they want to change the regime, they have to be prepared to use force,” he said.

Referring to the poisoning of Navalny and the deaths of Putin’s other prominent opponents, Khodorkovsky said he had “completely surrendered” to the idea that he could also be targeted.

He said, “I ran into a lot of risks in my life, I ran into them, and maybe, if necessary, I should do it again. Putin has the resources of the whole country; if he decides to remove me, the only thing, of course, that can save me is God.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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