Vladimir Putin is driving Russia towards a civil war and its disintegration as a state, a leading Russian opposition politician told Express.co.uk. He also said the only way to remove the Russian President and his “criminal” regime was through the use of force. Andrey Sidelnikov has an extensive background in Russian politics, having initially acted as one of the leaders for Boris Berezovsky’s Liberal Party, before going on to help found the Union of Right Forces in 1999 and whose backers included Boris Nemstov and Yegor Gaidar.
The anti-Putin activist is a member of the Executive Council of the Congress of People’s Deputies (CPD), which met last week for a four-day session in Warsaw, on the eve of Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine just over a year ago.
The CPD is a political forum of anti-Putin politicians determined to overthrow the present dictatorial regime and build a democratic Russia. It held its first session last November, also in Poland.
Mr Sidelnikov told the Express at the conference that removing Putin from power could only be achieved through an armed uprising and that steps towards this end were already underway.
He explained: “I am not going to deceive anyone. A transfer of power in Russia cannot be achieved peacefully in any circumstances.
“And the reason for that is 23 years of Putin’s policies. Only through the use of force can anything be changed.
“Putin has not only led Russia to war and made the country a threat to the whole world.
“He has brought the country to the brink of disintegration and civil war.
“And if it is true that today we don’t yet have the ability to forcibly change the leadership, then preparations towards that end have already started.”
Fighters from the Freedom of Russia Legion will be instrumental in the overthrow of Putin and his dictatorship, he argued.
The battalion is made up of Russian volunteers who “see no possibility other than the use of violence to change the current Russian regime”.
They are fighting in some of the hottest parts of the front, which includes Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donbas and are gaining a vital “education in military affairs”.
Although relatively small still in absolute numbers, Ilya Ponomarev told the Express that some 10,000 volunteers wanted to join the Legion’s ranks.
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Mr Sidelnikov, a former associate of the ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium in London in 2006, said he and his colleagues were using their contacts to bring through new recruits as fast as they could.
He added that they were passing on details of the volunteers to Ukrainian intelligence so the candidates could be carefully screened.
“Unfortunately there is not much trust towards Russians and they need to go through several vetting steps and that slows down our ability to fill out the ranks of the Legion,” he said.
The Legion has close ties with the Congress, with one of its combatants, “Caesar”, an elected member of the Executive Council.
During the conference, the Congress deputies unanimously passed a piece of legislation that could have profound historic consequences.
The Revolutionary Act, proposed by Mr Ponomarev, called for the dissolution of the Russian Federation along with the removal of all powers from President Putin and government institutions.
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The legislation envisages the creation of a new democratic Russian Republic that will comply with international laws and whose borders will correspond to those of Russia on 19th February 2014 – in other words to the day before Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
Deputies say they are laying the legal foundations that will ensure democracy has a chance to thrive in this future state. They see themselves as a parliament-in-waiting that will become the highest organ of state power until new elections can be held in post-Putin Russia.
The Congress presently consists of 76 former national and local deputies who gathered between them some 5 million votes in previous Russian elections that were still deemed competitive and free.
Mr Sidelnikov stressed that fears Russia would break up following the collapse of Putin’s regime were not exaggerated.
However, he argued that the Congress could help limit the chaos that political change would inevitably produce.
He said: “After the break-up of Russia….and a break-up will happen….it will be vital to return what remains [of this large territory] and Russian citizens to the civilised world community.
“It is essential to have a legal basis for the transitional period. The Congress is a unique platform that gives us the possibility to avoid the chaos that could break out in the country at the moment of the transfer of power.”