|Ex-oil tycoon Khodorkovsky free after Putin pardon||
Russian President Vladimir Putin has pardoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky, arguably Russia’s best-known prisoner, citing humanitarian reasons. The former oil tycoon left jail hours later and flew to Germany, avoiding a crowd of journalists eager to see him.
“As he was being released, Khodorkovsky requested that he be issued documents needed to travel abroad. After the release he took a flight to the Federal Republic of Germany,” the prison press service said, according to Russia Today.
The prison service did not provide detail of the flight, which took Khodorkovsky out of Russia. But a source at a local airport cited aviation chatter as saying that Khodorkovsky had flown out of the town of Segezha, where his prison is located, in a helicopter.
According to Reuters, Putin had said after a four-hour, end-of-year news conference on Thursday that Khodorkovsky asked for clemency.
His lawyers said they were checking that with their client. He was scheduled for release next August but supporters had feared the sentence might be extended, as it was once before.
Khodorkovsky was released Friday hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree pardoning the former tycoon. The degree cites humanitarian concerns as the reason for releasing the businessman after a decade of imprisonment.
Marina Khodorkovskaya, 80, the former oil tycoon’s mother, said that she can hardly believe that her son can now walk free.
“So I feel a little bit confused actually. I don’t think I can believe it. You know, I can’t quite realize what has happened. It’s been too much for me ever since yesterday’s afternoon,” she said.
Khodorkovsky’s father, Boris, told Itar-Tass that his whole family is happy with his son’s release from prison.
“We are waiting for our son in Moscow,” he said.
News of the pardon reached the prison while Khodorkovsky’s work brigade were doing their jobs, a source at the prison told Izvestia newspaper. The famous inmate took it “with reserved joy,” the source said.
The pardon of the former oil tycoon was welcomed by foreign leaders.
“I often called for the release of Khodorkovsky,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday, welcoming the news.
What Khodorkovsky would do following his release and whether he planned to be a public figure or play a role in the Russian politics is not decided yet.
Over the time of his imprisonment he wrote a number of essays and gave many interviews to comment on the current political events.
Many people among the Russian opposition anticipate to see Khodorkovsky as a prominent opposition leader.
His lawyer so far suggested that his client will move back to his home in Moscow.
Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, was arrested in 2003 and charged with tax evasion and fraud. In 2010 he was prosecuted and found guilty of money laundering. He was due for release in August 2014 after two separate Russian courts reduced his sentence.
While proponents say he fell victim to Putin’s crackdown on the oligarchs of the early 2000s, for many Khodorkovsky remains a dubious figure at best.
Khodorkovsky’s release has not been universally welcomed. The ex-tycoon may flee Russia and use whatever is left of his fortune to lead a smear campaign against the government that sent him to prison, asset manager Eric Kraus said.
“I think by freeing Khodorkovsky, they are creating another Berezovsky – a multi-billionaire who is going to be conducting a campaign of denigration of Russia internationally,” Kraus told RT.
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