Putin critic, Khodorkovsky, in Germany after presidential pardon

The businessman was jailed 10 years by the Russian government.

The 50-year-old Russian oil magnate, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, jailed for a decade after posing a challenge to Vladimir Putin, was freed by a presidential pardon on Friday.

Report says the once Russia’s richest man, looked pale and thin but happy in a photograph of him being greeted by German well-wishers on the tarmac after landing on a private jet.

President Putin, who surprised Russians and gave a brief lift to the stock market by announcing Khodorkovsky’s pardon, said he was acting out of “principles of humanity” due to his mother’s illness.

A Russian government source said freeing his best-known critic could deflect international complaints about Putin’s human rights record as Russia prepares to host the Winter Olympics at Sochi in seven weeks’ time.

Within hours of being released from Penal Colony No. 7 at Segezha, deep in the sub-Arctic forest near the Finnish border, Mr. Khodorkovsky who was in the German capital and issued a statement confirming he had sought a pardon and had not admitted guilt.

“I appealed to the Russian president on Nov. 12 with a request for a pardon in connection with family circumstances, the issue of an admission of guilt was not raised,” he said.

Mr. Putin’s spokesman said that the Russian president had received two letters from Mr. Khodorkovsky, a long personal letter and the official pardon request.

“The pardon was granted unconditionally and Khodorkovsky was free to return to Russia,” he said.

The former oil baron had been due to be released next August but supporters feared the sentence could be extended, as it was before.

(Reuters/NAN)


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