Former Russian PM says country will start to doubt Putin's leadership as sanctions hit harder
'People can't eat this every day,' Mikhail Kasyanov says of pro-Putin propaganda
A former Russian prime minister who used to work with President Vladimir Putin said he believes the Russian people will start to doubt the longtime leader once the impact of international economic sanctions are felt deeply in the country.
Mikhail Kasyanov served as prime minister from 2000 to 2004 — some of Putin's earliest years as president — but now leads an opposition party in Russia. Kasyanov is currently outside the country to avoid persecution from state authorities.
"Half of the population are completely fooled by propaganda, and that's why for a certain period of time they will continue to believe Putin is right," he said in an interview that aired Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.
Kasyanov said people in Russia will soon feel the effects of sanctions, "especially middle-class people living in big cities."
"All these explanations given by propaganda — people can't eat this every day," he told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
Kasyanov said Putin has changed completely in the two decades since they served in government together.
"He doesn't pretend anymore to be a democratically devoted person, he is a real KGB agent [now]," he said.
Kasyanov said he believed that once Putin is seen as being defeated in Ukraine, many Russians will 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, though experts are divided on how accurate polling can be in a country where opposition voices are regularly arrested and suppressed, and information is tightly controlled.
Oil exports fund Russian 'war machine,' Ukrainian minister says
Ukraine, meanwhile, is facing a "quite difficult situation" when it comes to its own economic resources, according to its finance minister.
In a separate interview that aired Sunday, Serhiy Marchenko told Barton his country is facing a fiscal gap of $5 billion US a month. He said this is because Ukraine has lost around half its revenues since the start of the war in late February.
"We need $5 billion per month in the next three months. We need this bridge to the new normal," Marchenko said, expressing optimism that the international community would step in to help.
North American and European countries have already committed billions in loans and grants to Ukraine, with the United States government recently requesting authority from Congress to deploy another $33 billion US in security, economic and humanitarian aid. Canada has offered Ukraine up to around $1.6 billion Cdn in loans.
The federal government also recently moved to give itself the power to seize frozen Russian assets and sell them off to help fund aid efforts, something Marchenko endorsed.
"I believe we can use frozen Russian assets to be seized in a way to help Ukraine rebuild," he said.
Marchenko called for the international community to move more radically to halt their imports of Russian oil and gas.
Energy from Russia is increasingly in the sights of Ukraine's allies; Russia cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria this week, while Germany is looking to accelerate its transition away from Russian energy.
While economic sanctions are hurting Russia, Marchenko said the country can still benefit from high energy prices.
"Russia, unfortunately for us, receives additional money [from energy exports] to cover their war machine," he said.
You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.
With files from Rosemary Barton, Sarah Ramsaran and Arielle Piat-Sauvé