Former Russian PM says country will start to doubt Putin’s leadership as sanctions hit harder

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A former Russian prime minister who worked with President Vladimir Putin said he believed the Russian people would begin to doubt the longtime leader once the impact of international economic sanctions was felt deeply in the country.

Mikhail Kasyanov was prime minister from 2000 to 2004 – some of Putin’s first years as president – but now leads an opposition party in Russia. Kasyanov is currently outside the country to avoid persecution by state authorities.

“Half the population is completely fooled by the propaganda, and that’s why for a while they will continue to believe that Putin is right,” he said in an interview broadcast on Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

Kasyanov said Russians will soon feel the effects of the sanctions, “especially middle-class people living in big cities.”

“All these propaganda explanations – people can’t eat this every day,” he told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.

Putin “no longer pretends to be a democratically dedicated person,” said Kasyanov, who served as prime minister from 2000 to 2004. (Alexander Demyanchuk/Associated Press)

Kasyanov said Putin has changed completely in the two decades since they served in government together.

“He no longer pretends to be a democratically devoted person, he is a real KGB agent [now],” he said.

Kasyanov said he believed that once Putin was seen as defeated in Ukraine, many Russians would begin to doubt his leadership and there could be regime change in the country within two years.

Putin remains popular in Russia, according to public opinion polls, although experts are divided on the accuracy of the polls in a country where opposition voices are routinely silenced and suppressed, and information is tightly controlled.

Oil exports fund Russia’s ‘war machine’, Ukrainian minister says

Ukraine, meanwhile, faces a “quite difficult situation” with regard to its own economic resources, according to its finance minister.

In a separate interview broadcast on Sunday, Serhiy Marchenko told Barton that his country was facing a budget deficit of US$5 billion a month. According to him, this is because Ukraine has lost about half of its income since the start of the war at the end of February.

“We need $5 billion a month for the next three months. We need this bridge to the new normal,” Marchenko said, expressing optimism about the intervention of the international community.

Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko, center, was among government officials who walked out of a G20 meeting in April. (Chrystia Freeland/Twitter)

Countries in North America and Europe have already committed billions in loans and grants to Ukraine, with the United States government recently seeking Congressional approval to deploy an additional US$33 billion in aid. security, economic and humanitarian. Canada has offered Ukraine up to approximately C$1.6 billion in loans.

The federal government also recently decided to give itself the power to seize frozen Russian assets and sell them to help fund aid efforts, which Marchenko endorsed.

“I think we can use frozen Russian assets to be seized in ways that help Ukraine rebuild,” he said.

Marchenko called on the international community to act more radically to stop its imports of Russian oil and gas.

Russian energy is increasingly in the crosshairs of Ukraine’s allies; Russia cut gas to Poland and Bulgaria this week, while Germany seeks to accelerate its transition away from Russian energy.

While economic sanctions are hurting Russia, Marchenko said the country could still benefit from high energy prices.

“Russia, unfortunately for us, gets extra money [from energy exports] to cover their war machine,” he said.

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, CBC’s streaming service.

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