On November 4 – 7, exiled Russian oppositionists formed the “First Congress of People’s Deputies of Russia” in Warsaw. All delegates were legally elected to a Russian office prior to 2014, opposed the annexation of Crimea, and oppose Putin’s war against Ukraine. The delegates adopted a founding declaration and began outlining a post-Putin Russia.
Andrei Illarionov, Senior Analyst at the Center for Security Policy, attended the conference as an advisor. Ruslan Zoshin from Rzeczpospolita, a Polish newspaper, interviewed Illarionov about the event:
The “first congress of Russian deputies” took place in Jablonna near Warsaw. You are asking for the support of democratic countries. Who can you count on?
It’s not about relying on anyone. We are talking about creating a new system of popular representation and state power in Russia. The process of external recognition does not happen all at once. It can also be partial and take time, it can include the recognition of the parliament and the government in exile. It is important that this process has begun. Started in Poland, in this special, symbolic, historical place. This hall hosted the first meetings of Polish representatives, which led to the Round Table and the creation of a free, independent Poland. This evokes associations and also shows that our initiative is of interest to the Polish society and, possibly, to the Polish authorities. Representatives of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine also appeared in this hall, obviously, they also have an interest. I think the process will go further.
Do you have the support of at least some elite in Russia?
In order for support to appear, it is necessary that what can be supported first arise. Now we are adopting a document on the establishment of a transitional parliament. This is the birth of a new government in Russia. After her birth, it will be known who will work with us.
But you are not in Russia. How are you going to fight for power in your country?
Nobody guarantees success. This is a military-political issue. For the first time in 17 years of my acquaintance with the opposition, people appeared who took this issue seriously. This was not the case before. There were protests, demonstrations, various actions. There were many oppositionists. They deserve respect, especially those who stayed in Russia. But they have no legitimacy. In the case of our initiative, this problem has been solved, because it unites parliamentarians and deputies of local self-government bodies, who were once elected by the citizens of Russia on the basis of the electoral legislation in force at that time.
Why did not a single major politician in Russia start an uprising in almost nine months of the war?
When Stalin invaded Poland in 1939, how many of his regime rebelled, defected to Poland, or even resigned? I have not heard that any of them joined the ranks of the Polish Army. In a totalitarian regime, elites rarely rebel, and one can lose one’s freedom or life for speaking out against the authorities. However, in today’s Russia, someone quietly went to the Bahamas, someone – to the Canary Islands, someone – to Dubai and Switzerland. Few have publicly resigned. Boris Lvin resigned from the post of Deputy Director of the World Bank from Russia. There are people fighting the regime in Russia itself and paying a high price for it. Others are fighting with weapons in their hands as part of Russian volunteers in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Partisans operate in Russia. Compared to 1939, there are more people who spoke out against the regime in the current war.
You were an adviser to Putin. You know the climate at the top of government. Are there people who think differently?
I haven’t been there for a long time. Ask the commentators who have been claiming to know what’s going on in the Kremlin for years, promising for a decade that Putin’s regime will collapse next week.
Moscow is counting on the fact that in the United States after the midterm elections there will be a split within the elite over support for Ukraine.
The elections will not change the current U.S. government’s approach to war, the policy of the U.S. administration will not change.
China supports Russia?
China is distancing itself from Russia. When Putin flew to Beijing for the Olympics nine months ago, he was preparing for war. He counted on China as a political, diplomatic, and, if necessary, economic, and military ally. But after this time, it turned out that Putin’s expectations were not justified. In recent months, Beijing has been increasing its distance from Moscow, and the Chinese authorities have stopped mentioning the strategic partnership agreement signed in February by Putin and Xi Jinping. Instead, Beijing started talking about a strategic partnership with Ukraine. These words must be approached with caution. However, it turns out that at the September SCO summit in Samarkand, the Chinese leader withdrew his public support for Putin. China is not an ally of Ukraine, but the important thing is that it does not support Russian aggression.
What is more important for the democratic world: a quick end to the war or the fall of the Putin regime in Russia?
The democratic world is different. Poland thinks of one thing, the Hungarians of another, Serbia of a third. I would divide the mood in Europe into three groups. At one pole – Poland and the Baltic countries. On the opposite side, not Hungarians at all, but Serbs. Other countries are located between these poles. As for the end of the war, or rather, wars, Putin’s wars, they will end only with the end of this regime.
There are radicals in the Russian opposition who support the physical liquidation of Putin, others talk about the need for an international tribunal. What do you think of it?
Putin’s actions are criminal, so a tribunal is needed. Whether it be national or international. It can take place in Bucha, Mariupol, Sevastopol or Moscow. The main thing is that it should be.