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The Former Russian Official Calling for a Coup Against Putin

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, it was the largest military attack on a European country since World War II. Reliable casualty figures are hard to come by, but U.S…

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, it was the largest military attack on a European country since World War II. Reliable casualty figures are hard to come by, but U.S. intelligence officials estimated last year that as many as 500,000 Russians and Ukrainians had been killed in the conflict, with an estimated 15–30 million refugees. 

Congress has allotted $175 billion in aid for Ukraine since the war began. 

But Ilya Ponomarev says that cash and defensive weapons alone won’t liberate Ukraine or impede future Russian aggression. He insists that Vladimir Putin must be deposed by force. And he is actively working to do just that. 

Ilya Ponomarev was a member of Russia’s Federal Assembly (Russia’s national legislature) from 2007 to 2016. He was the only member to vote against Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Exiled to Ukraine since 2016, he is the political head of the Freedom of Russian Legion, a paramilitary group made up of Russian dissidents and defectors fighting for Ukraine. He argues that nonviolent resistance is not enough and that radical steps are needed to overthrow Putin. 

In today’s conversation, Ponomarev talks about his life as a dissident and what it is like being a target for assassination, his previous relationship with Putin, and why democracy has failed to take root in Russia.

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