Khodorkovsky vows to help Russian political prisoners


The former Russia tycoon thanks Merkel for help securing release.

Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has said he will do all he can to ensure the release of other Russian political prisoners. At a news conference in Berlin, he thanked his supporters and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for helping to secure his release, the BBC reports. He said he only found out he was being sent to Berlin on the day he was freed. Khodorkovsky was released on Friday, after spending 10 years in a Russian prison for fraud and tax evasion. He always insisted that his conviction was politically motivated. At the time of his arrest he was Russia’s richest man. and he used some of his wealth to fund opposition parties.
He became the country’s best-known political prisoner.
Khodorkovsky said there was a need “to make sure that in Russia and in any other countries in the world there won’t be political prisoners”. He said he hoped Western leaders would remember that when they visited President Putin.
He insisted he would not get involved in Russian politics himself, saying: “The struggle for power is not for me”. But the BBC’s Stephen Evans in Berlin said it is clear that Khodorkovsky is happy to become a symbol of those who are still imprisoned.
The former tycoon also spent a lot of time thanking his supporters.
As well as Mrs Merkel, he mentioned the former German foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher. “He made it possible for us to have reached this point now,” he said of Mr Genscher. Earlier, the former billionaire told a Russian magazine he did not intend to fight for the return of assets from his disbanded oil company, Yukos. Khodorkovsky was freed on Friday, after spending 10 years in a Russian prison for fraud and tax evasion. He always insisted that his conviction was politically motivated. At the time of his arrest he was Russia’s richest man. and he used some of his wealth to fund opposition parties. He became the country’s best-known political prisoner. He acknowledged that his departure from Russia was stage-managed. “If someone wanted to make a movie about the 1970s and a deportation of a dissident you could not have done it better.” He said that while he had not been forced to leave Russia, “we can absolutely clearly understand that they suggested I leave the country.” He has now been reunited with his son and his parents, and said he would not return to his homeland until he was certain he could leave again at any time for family reasons. Khodorkovsky had been in prison since 2003 and was due to be released next August, but requested a pardon because his mother is suffering from cancer. President Vladimir Putin surprised Russians last week by agreeing to the pardon.
In a statement after his release on Friday, Khodorkovsky stressed he had not admitted guilt and made reference to those who have been “unjustly convicted and continue to be persecuted”.
Khodorkovsky left the penal colony where he was being held, in the Karelia region of north-western Russia close to the Finnish border, early on Friday afternoon.
On his release, he was given a passport and the necessary documents to allow him to fly from St Petersburg to Berlin.
The pardon for Khodorkovsky came after Russian MPs backed a wide-ranging amnesty for at least 20,000 prisoners.

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