UK & World News

  • 22 December 2013, 16:36

Khodorkovsky Vows To Help Political Prisoners

Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has vowed to help get other political prisoners released from Russian jails after he was freed.

The Kremlin critic says people should not see him as a "symbol" that there are no other such detainees behind bars in the country.

The 50-year-old ex-inmate said he would do "all I can" to ensure they win their freedom.

He said Western governments should "remember I am not the last political prisoner in Russia" and he will not shy away from public activity.

But he cautioned he would not be "involved in the struggle for power" in Russia.

The former chief executive and founder of the Yukos oil giant said he had no plans to return to business but he claimed to be in a good financial situation.

He had earlier told a Russian magazine, The New Times, that he would not be looking for a return of his enormous stake in the now-defunct oil company.

Once Russia's richest man, Mr Khodorkovsky spent 10 years in jail on what many in the West considered trumped-up political charges by President Vladimir Putin's government.

He was pardoned by the president on Friday and released from a prison camp in Segezha, northwest Russia, before immediately flying to Berlin.

At a packed news conference, he spoke at the Berlin Wall museum in the symbolic Cold War location of Checkpoint Charlie.

He revealed he had no choice about his end destination, saying he only learnt he would be going to Germany during his transfer.

The ex-tycoon thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for working on his release.

Due to a lawsuit for hundreds of millions of pounds in damages stemming from his first 2005 conviction, there was "no guarantee" that if he returned to Russia he would be allowed to leave again.

Asked about his relationship with Mr Putin, Mr Khodorkovsky refused to be drawn into expressing hatred towards the leader.

He said that while he had been treated harshly "my family had never been touched".

He added that he was against a boycott of the Sochi Olympics next February, saying a "festival of sport should not be spoilt" amid claims it could be targeted over Russia's anti-gay laws. It should not, however, become a "festival of Vladimir Putin", he said.

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