Putin rival ties Kushner meeting to Kremlin bankers

Image: Jared Kushner Makes A Statement To The Media At The White House

White House Senior Adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner walks out of the West Wing to read a statement after testifying behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russian meddling in the presidential election. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Kushner’s meeting with Gorkov already drew

contradicting accounts from the attendees. The Kremlin bank said it was a business meeting, while the Trump administration said it was a diplomatic meeting.

Asked about those conflicting accounts, Khodorkovsky said “it’s difficult for me to interpret such a contradiction.”

“It’s very possible that what your administration regards as a governmental issue, Russian representatives view as purely business,” Khodorkovsky said. “Although, in my experience, it’s typically the opposite.”

Putin needs an American enemy

More broadly, Khodorkovsky also sized up Putin’s relationship with Trump, noting Putin is a “strong tactician” with more experience.

“If they were to face off, I wouldn’t bet on Trump,” Khodorkovsky said.

He added that Putin’s perceived success at affecting the U.S. election is still a challenge for him back in Russia.

“Putin needs America as an enemy,” he said. “Now he’s got complicated task of having to say, ‘Yes, Trump is our guy in the White House, but America is our enemy,'” he continued, adding that so far, “the Kremlin propagandists are managing to succeed at this.”

Khodorkovsky also reflected on his years in a Russian prison, and his outlook for speaking out now.

“Could I have been murdered? Certainly,” he says of his days behind bars. “I was knifed in the face while sleeping. Was I afraid of it? No.”

He now runs an organization devoted to supporting democratic reforms in Russia, and says he “accepts the risks” of speaking out against Putin while living in exile in Switzerland.

“I could make my life safer by not getting involved in the sociopolitical life of my country,” he says, “but then it wouldn’t be my life.”

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