Freed Tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky Hits Russia on Political Prisoners

Vows Not To Challenge Vladimir Putin for Power

getty images

By Reuters

Published December 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Sunday promised not to seek power in Russia but said he would fight for the freedom of people he considered political prisoners, challenging Vladimir Putin two days after a presidential pardon freed him from jail.

Khodorkovsky told reporters in Berlin that “the struggle for power is not for me”, but made clear he would put pressure on Putin and urged world leaders to do the same, saying his release should not be seen as a sign Russian repression is at an end.

“We need to work further so that there would be no more political prisoners left in Russia and other countries,” he told a news conference at a museum commemorating the Berlin Wall from the Cold War era. “I am going to do my utmost in this regard.”

Putin unexpectedly announced on Thursday that he would pardon Khodorkovsky, who had been in jail on fraud and tax evasion charges since he was arrested in 2003, during Putin’s first term, and was seen by many as a political prisoner.

He was released from a prison camp near the Arctic Circle on Friday and flew to Berlin, where he was reunited with relatives.

He said he would not advise leaders on how to deal with Russia’s “complex” president but added: “I just hope politicians from Western countries will keep in mind that I’m not the last political prisoner in Russia when they talk to Putin.”

Emotional at times but looking healthy and composed in a dark suit and blue necktie, Khodorkovsky, said that there were no conditions attached to his release and that he had made no admission of guilt in asking Putin for a pardon.

But he said that despite the Kremlin’s public assurances that he was free to return to Russia, he could not do so now because there was no guarantee he would be able to leave again if necessary.

NO CHOICE ON LEAVING RUSSIA

He said the decision to leave Russia immediately after his release had not been his.

“I had no choice. I was woken at 2 a.m. by the head of prison camp and he told me I was going home,” he said. “During the trip I learned that the trip ended in Berlin. I saw on the door of the airplane that it was a German airplane.”

The former Yukos oil company chief said his financial position was good and he had no plans to go back into business, but made clear he had not made big decisions about his future, saying repeatedly he had only been free for 36 hours.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man and the head of the Yukos oil company, was convicted in two trials that Kremlin critics say were part of a Kremlin campaign to punish him for challenging Putin, to bring his oil assets under state control and warn other tycoons to toe the line.

Khodorkovsky had funded opposition parties, questioned state decisions on oil pipeline policy, raised corruption allegations and fashioned himself as an enlightened, Western-style post-Soviet executive - all of which ran counter to Putin’s efforts to tighten his grip on Russia in his first term.

Khodorkovsky said on Sunday he did not intend to seek to regain assets of Yukos, which was broken up and sold off after his arrest. Its main production asset ended up in the hands of state oil company Rosneft, now Russia’s biggest producer and headed by a close Putin ally, Igor Sechin.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.