Former oil tycoon and Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Monday unveiled his campaign to find an alternative to Vladimir Putin ahead of 2018 presidential polls, but insisted that he will not run.

Kremlin strongman Putin is widely expected to run for a fourth term as president in 2018, despite not yet officially committing himself. 

“People are clearly tired of the inability to change the current political elite,” Khodorkovsky said in a Skype conference call from London, where he is currently living in exile.

“We want to help our compatriots answer the questions: who besides Putin? So we are launching the project ‘Instead of Putin’. It will promote new political challengers in the campaign for Russian president.”

Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky headed the Yukos oil giant until his dramatic arrest on a Siberian runway in 2003. 

He spent a decade behind bars following two highly controversial tax evasion and fraud trials that were widely seen as the Kremlin’s retribution for him getting involved in politics.  

After he was unexpectedly pardoned by Putin and released in late 2013, Khodorkovsky moved abroad and he now supports various opposition projects in Russia. 

Some had expected the one-time oligarch to announce his plans to stand in the elections but he denied he had any such intentions.

“I personally don’t plan to put forth my candidacy,” Khodorkovsky said. 

“But at the same time I will always be ready to give a helping hand to democratic candidates and to my country, when it is necessary.”

Among potential candidates that Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia foundation is touting to replace Putin are former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, protest leader Alexei Navalny, and even the daughter of Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin, Tatyana Yumasheva. 

Source : French press and Russia Today