World Bulletin/News Desk
Former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, freed last year from a Siberian prison, said on Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin's rule was likely to "cease to exist" within a decade.
Khodorkovsky, whose oil empire once produced more crude than Qatar before he ran afoul of Putin, said the Kremlin's tightly controlled political system had lost the ability to transform itself and would be likely changed from the outside.
"Back when I was in jail, I was writing that ... around 2014-15 will be the beginning of the inner crisis of the regime, when it will start making serious mistakes," said Khodorkovsky at a conference in Lithuania.
"I think there is quite large probability that within the mid-term range, 10 years, the regime will cease to exist."
Putin enjoys high popularity for his annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and for policies seen to stand up to the West.
But Western sanctions over Russia's role in Ukraine are starting to bite. The rouble lost 40 percent of its value in 2014 due to sanctions and a slump in oil prices, and Russia's economy appears headed for recession in 2015.
Khodorkovsky raised Putin's ire shortly after the leader took office in part by funding opposition groups and speaking out against corruption.
The former tycoon was pardoned by Putin in December 2013 after 10 years in jail for fraud and tax evasion, in a case his supporters say was politically motivated, accusations the Kremlin denies.
The former energy magnate has since based himself in Switzerland.