Freed Khodorkovsky vows to stay out of Russia politics
BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Freed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky walks past a poster with his picture as he visits an exhibition in the Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Dec 22, 2013. REUTERS photoKremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky said Dec 22 he intends to stay out of Russian politics and will only return home if certain he can leave again, after being whisked to Germany following a decade in jail.
Russia's former richest man and until recently its most famous inmate was reunited with his family in Berlin on Saturday a day after being pardoned by President Vladimir Putin.
The pardon was widely read as a Kremlin effort to mute criticism of its dismal rights record ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in February.
The former tycoon, who was twice convicted of financial crimes his supporters say was Putin's revenge for financing the opposition, will address reporters Sunday near the symbolic Cold War location of Check Point Charlie, where foreigners used to cross the border between East and Wast Berlin.
Ahead of the 1200 GMT news conference, he is also scheduled to address a smaller group of reporters. He arrived dressed in a smart business suit with a white shirt.
But in his first media interview since his release, Khodorkovsky revealed he had made clear his intention to stay out of politics in his request for a pardon from Putin.
"I wrote in my papers what I have repeatedly said publicly: I am not going into politics and not going to fight for the return of (his former oil firm) Yukos assets," he told the opposition magazine The New Times.
Khodorkovsky indicated that Moscow had wanted him out of the country and said he will not return home until he is certain he can leave again in full security.
"From an objective point of view, I will return only if I am certain that I will be able to leave when necessary," he told the magazine.
"Our authorities can honestly say that they did not send me into exile and that I asked for it. But knowing our realities, we can absolutely precisely understand that they wanted me out of the country," he said.
Putin's spokesman said he was free to come back. "He is free to return to Russia. Absolutely," Dmitry Peskov told AFP on Saturday. On Saturday, the 50-year-old was reunited with his parents, who travelled to Berlin from Moscow, and with his eldest son Pavel, who lives in the United States.
Khodorkovsky, widely seen as Russia's most famous post-Soviet inmate, was jailed for financial crimes in separate convictions in 2005 and 2010. He had been due for release in August 2014.
Putin shocked Russia Dec. 19 by saying that, after a decade behind bars, his fierce opponent had turned to him for a pardon on humanitarian grounds.
Less than 24 hours later, Khodorkovsky walked out of prison in a region near the border with Finland and flew to Berlin on a private jet sent by Genscher.
Khodorkovsky acknowledged his lighting-quick exit was stage-managed. "If someone wanted to make a movie about the 1970s and the deportation of a dissident you could not have done it better," he told the New Times. US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the release but urged Moscow to do more to improve the rule of law. Khodorkovsky's release came amid intense activity in Russia to improve its image, with parliament also approving a major amnesty.
Two jailed members of the Pussy Riot punk band are expected to be freed under the amnesty that comes less than two months before the Olympic Games start in Sochi.
Thirty Greenpeace activists, arrested on hooliganism charges after a protest against Arctic oil drilling, are also expected to escape prosecution.