Episode 43, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube


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Ilya Ponomarev is an entrepreneur, a former member of the Russian duma, a political adversary of Vladimir Putin, a friend of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, and a resident of Ukraine, currently fighting for his life and the future of his adopted homeland.

During our conversation, Ilya talks about his political career in Russia, Russian vs. American culture, his assessment of the character and personality of both Putin and Zelenskyy, Russia's intelligence failure and miscalculation prior the war, the lies perpetrated by Putin to justify the invasion, his view that Ukraine is winning and will win the war, the risk of a nuclear exchange, his message for America and the free world, and his belief that Putin will be dead within one year.

I met Ilya in 2015 when he was visiting San Francisco to give an interview at the World Affairs Council. He had recently be banished from Russia, best know for being the Russian Duma's lone dissenting vote - 445-1 - against Russia's annexation of Crimea. He is one heroic example out of millions in Ukraine: a man fighting for democracy and freedom, and willing to risk his life for them.

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Time Stamps:

(00:00) Introduction
(02:18) Ilya's personal and political background
(07:54) Surprise at the invasion of Ukraine
(11:44) Who is Vladimir Putin?
(13:47) Experiencing the invasion: February 24, 2022
(17:37) Who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy?
(21:31) The lies within Putin's argument for invasion
(27:41) Russian soldier's beliefs about the war
(32:35) How might the Russian narrative about the war crumble?
(35:07) How has Ukraine succeeded in Kyiv?
(40:41) What daily life is like during the war
(44:16) Ilya's message for the Russian people
(46:32) What Ukraine needs to win the war
(49:09) The risk of a nuclear exchange
(53:26) The best-case outcome for Ukraine
(56:38) Putin's potential successor
(1:03:54) Ilya's potential future in a future Russia
(1:05:01) A cause worth dying for: "Do what you feel you need to do, and let things happen."

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