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Exiled Oligarch Khodorkovsky Starts Search for Putin Replacement

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has announced his search to find Russia's next president.

The former Yukos chief is asking Russians to nominate potential Russian leaders via his project “Vmesto Putina” or “Instead of Putin.”

Khodorkovsky confirmed that he would financially support a candidate chosen through the project to rival Russia's current president, Vladimir Putin, in the country's 2018 presidential elections.

He also confirmed that he would not run for president himself.

“For many years, Kremlin spin doctors have told the people of Russia that there is no alternative to Putin,” the project states on its website.We want to show that among 145 million Russians, we have people who are able to take up the post.”

A panel of political experts have already put forward 13 notable figures who they would like to see receive Khodorkovsky's support. Russians will be able to back their favorite nominee via the project's website.

Candidates include former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, leader of Parnas opposition party Mikhail Kasyanov, and former judge Tatyana Morschakova.

The nominations were made without
prior consultation, and those put forward to take part in the project only heard of their own involvement on Monday morning.

One candidate, the deputy head of Transparency International Russia, Yelena Panfilova, “fell off her chair” when she heard the news, Russia's RBC newspaper reported.

Others were less enthusiastic about their surprise nominations.

“I am asking the creators of this little game to remove my name and photo from their site,” journalist Elena Rykovtseva wrote on her Facebook page. “I'm ready to follow this project from the sidelines, but no more!”

Other candidates, such as activist Alexei Navalny, are legally unable to hold office within Russia due to past criminal convictions.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin had “no interest in the project.”

"We have already read about this project in the media,” said Peskov. “It is a project which is being developed by people who are already irrevocably cut off from Russia, what's going on here, and from the Russian agenda. We do not see anything of interest in this project at all.”

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