MOSCOW - If Vladimir Putin remains Russia's paramount leader, hopes for reform will be extinguished and Russia's brightest people will emigrate in droves, former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky told Reuters from jail.
Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was arrested in 2003 after falling foul of the Kremlin under then-President Putin and his Yukos oil company was crippled with massive back-tax claims and then sold off by the state.
"The hopes for internal reform of the current system of power would disappear," Khodorkovsky, 48, said in a written reply to a question asking what would happen if Putin returned to the Kremlin or remained paramount leader.
Putin, who now serves as prime minister, steered Dmitry Medvedev into the Kremlin in 2008 because the constitution barred him from running for a third consecutive term. He is widely expected to run in a March 2012 presidential election.