A Russian dissident in the UK has warned that Vladimir Putin is a ‘danger to the world’ as he prepares to fly out to Ukraine.
Opposition leader Andrey Sidelnikov said he is living in fear for his life after losing others close to him at the hands of the Kremlin’s agents.
Mr Sidelnikov, who is due to fly out to Kyiv next week, called for immediate sanctions to be imposed on Russia and on individuals linked to Moscow who are apparently able to travel across Europe with impunity.
The activist, who leads the London-based opposition movement Speak Up, said the Russian President’s true goal is to establish a ‘Soviet Union 2.0’ with a corridor to the west of the strengthened world power.
He spoke ahead of the trip to Ukraine, where he plans to hold meetings and see what he can do to ‘save lives’ from his base in the UK in the event of an invasion, as tensions continue to run high with an estimated 115,000 Russian troops massed on the border.
Mr Sidelnikov said: ‘Putin wants to show his power by creating a new Soviet Union, he does not want an independent Ukraine on his doorstep.
‘He has placed a lot of power, money and people into Ukraine already, and this way he controls about 30% of the population.
‘I think he will invade, possibly during the Winter Olympics or in March, but I don’t think Russian soldiers will go to the gates of Kyiv.
‘He will take what he needs out of Ukraine, which means seizing the corridor of Belarussia, which connects to Poland and Lithuania.
‘He wants to make this territory part of a future Soviet Union 2.0. Putin is a danger to the whole world.’
Mr Sidelnikov, 46, who has been granted political asylum in the UK, met Alexander Litvinenko two days before the former Russian intelligence officer died in November 2006.
A public inquiry concluded that the poisoning was carried out by Russian agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, probably on Mr Putin’s orders.
In 2018, a nerve agent attack, also blamed on Russian operatives, was carried out on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
Although the pair survived, Dawn Sturgess died after spraying herself with the deadly nerve agent novichok, in the belief it was perfume.
‘I have never felt safe, even after moving to the UK from Moscow,’ Mr Sidelnikov said.
‘A lot of my friends, people I knew very well, have been killed during the period of Putin’s regime. Some years ago, I discovered some people from Russia wanted to kill me and I spoke to the British and Lithuanian police, because I spent some time in Vilnius as well, but I didn’t hear any further information about the case.
‘I am still living in fear and what I do know for certain is that Putin’s agents can come to London to kill people.
‘I met Alexander Litvinenko two days before he was poisoned and then there was the Skripal case.
‘Even after these cases, there are people here, in London, working as agents and informers for his regime. I have written to every Prime Minister after all of these cases saying the government should do more to protect people who are targeted by Russia.
‘The best way to protect us is to place more sanctions on people connected to the Russian regime, not just in the UK, but across the whole world.
‘Sanctions need to be placed on people who are travelling across Europe to target people in places including London.
‘The world can’t wait for Putin to invade Ukraine, this needs to happen today to protect people in the opposition movement.
‘It is also time for the whole world to help Ukraine to remain an independent, democratic country.
‘If not, Putin will go to the next country, to Poland and the Baltic countries. European governments don’t believe this could happen in the 21st Century but if Ukraine falls, it will only be a matter of time.’
Mr Sidelnikov will arrive in Ukraine at a time when NATO is attempting to shore up its support for the former Soviet country.
‘I will be meeting with politicians and other people to discuss what I can do in the UK to help the Ukrainian people and save lives,’ he said.
Tensions over Ukraine continued to run high as Joe Biden threatened rare personal sanctions on Putin and his inner circle. The UK and US have both declared they will send troops into eastern Europe if Moscow does invade its neighbour, which follows airlifts of ‘lethal aid’ to its ally.
In turn, the Kremlin accused the West of being the aggressive party and said it is prepared to take ‘retaliatory measures’.
Russia has previously denied any involvement in Mr Litvinenko’s death and the Skripal poisonings.
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