News / Europe

Khodorkovsky: Russia Still Has Political Prisoners

Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks during his first news conference after his release in Berlin, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks during his first news conference after his release in Berlin, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.
Russia's former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, recently pardoned by Russia's president, gave his first news conference Sunday after spending more than 10 years in prison on charges of embezzlement and tax fraud.  Khodorkovsky appeared composed and thoughtful while he answered questions at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.

Once Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khordorvosky, started his press conference by thanking everyone who helped facilitate his release; apologizing in advance if he failed to mention anyone.

The former head of Yukos Oil spent 10 years behind bars after being convicted of tax evasion and embezzlement.  He was charged shortly after having a televised, heated argument with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Khodorkovsky had also funded the opposition, questioned state decisions on oil pipeline policy and raised corruption allegations; saying civil society was important for democracy.

As a result of Khodorkovsky’s two convictions, his company was broken up and sold off to become part of Russia’s biggest state oil giant.

  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky, center, arrives for his first news conference after his release from a Russian prison, Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2013. 
  • Freed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky (C) arrives for his news conference in the Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2013. 
  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks during his first news conference after his release from a Russian prison, Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2013. 
  • Marina and Boris Khodorkovsky, parents of freed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky listen during his news conference in the Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2013. 
  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky, center, leaves a news conference in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2013. 
  • Freed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexandra Hildebrandt, director of Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, pose for a picture in the museum in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2013. 
  • The parents of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his father Boris, right, and his mother Marina, center left, arrive at their son's news conference in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2013.
  • Pavel Khodorkovsky, son of Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, speaks to the media outside of the Adlon Hotel in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 21, 2013.
  • Russian emergency ministry personnel stand near a helicopter at a field next to the Penal Colony 7, where Mikhail Khodorkovsky was incarcerated near the Finnish border, 300 km south of the Arctic Circle, Dec. 20, 2013.
  • Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is seen on a screen during an appeal for a reduced sentence at Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow August 6, 2013.

Khodorkovsky said he hopes his pardon on Friday by  Putin would not lead people to think that there are no political prisoners left in Russia; because there are and he says they need to be helped.

"There are other political prisoners who are still left in Russia, not only those related to the Yukos criminal case," he said. "I would like to say that you should not see me as a symbol that there are no more political prisoners in Russia.  I'm asking you to see me as a symbol of the efforts of the civil society that could lead even to the release of those people whom nobody ever expected to see released."

Khodorkovsky was released from a penal colony near the Arctic Circle early Friday and says he has not had much time to think about his future.

But he said he does not plan to go into politics and his pardon had nothing to do with admitting guilt.

"I am not going to engage in any political activity, and I said that in my letter to President Putin and reiterated it several times since," he said. "I am going to engage in public work.  The struggle for power is not for me now."

The 50-year-old said he had asked Putin for a pardon for family reasons, citing his mother’s poor health.  He said he will only return to Russia if he will be able to leave again when he wants.

"Mr. Peskov, the spokesman of the Russian president, said that nobody would prevent me from coming back to Russia at any moment.  Unfortunately, at this time I do not have any guarantees that I will be able to fly again afterwards, wherever I need for any matters, and my family matters I currently see as a priority for me," he said.

The former tycoon has been given a year-long visa for Germany.

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by: Nicholas Akuamoah-Boateng from: Kumasi-Ghana
December 23, 2013 12:40 AM
Putin is putting all his political opponents in prison! He is a liar and wicked. I have never seen a picture of him smiling. Such a wicked face!!!

by: Anonymous
December 22, 2013 10:08 PM
It is absurd how the west praises this criminal. The ECHR has found him guilty of massive tax evasion. This is a professional court and it agreed with the Russian govt on one point. Also, the reason he went to jail is after stealing billions from the Russian govt in the 90s (including in the loans for shares deal where he rigged an auction to steal yukos), he tried to buy the duma in order to steal more after being told by Putin to stop. The western media and govt know this. Why continue to propagate such lies in spite of the truth? How is this any different from the Russian media? Is it ironic that the western media claims that there is no free media in Russia when this and other examples cast a poor light on media freedom (at least amongt the mainstream western media)?

by: Wilf Tarkin from: Rockall
December 22, 2013 5:13 PM
Yes OF COURSE Russia still has political prisoners; Pussy Riot are probably the best known, lesser known ones are e.g. prosecutors trying to prosecute corrupt politicians, and journalists trying to write about atrocities in Chechnya.
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 24, 2013 9:33 AM
@Anonymous: Yes OF COURSE he was guilty of crimes -- but not the ones he was accused of, or sentenced for. Those were bullshit charges cooked up by the biggest oligarch of them all, Putin, to steal his company.
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 23, 2013 12:27 AM
Yes, OF COURSE he was innocent of any crimes. The man was a BILLIONAIRE! Even if he were to run around central Moscow shooting random people, as long as he didn't hit another billionaire, he certainly wouldn't have been guilty of any crime. It's almost 2014!! Wretched Russians are so far behind the times!

by: Dr. B. Santana from: Spain
December 22, 2013 2:52 PM
I read his financial market analysis - this guy has one of the smartest brains in Russia. truly incredible intellectual power. If he had prevailed against the brutality of Putin, Russia today would have been a vibrant progressive liberal democracy. what a shame. just like Trotsky was destroyed by Stalin - so sad.

by: Anonymous
December 22, 2013 2:24 PM
Wouldn't it be great if nobody showed up in Sochi for the Olympics, except Putin. Putin and an empty stadium. Maybe then he would start to think about what he's done. If I had a photo of Putin I'd step on it.

by: Anonymous
December 22, 2013 2:20 PM
Political prisoners in Russia doesn't surprise anyone. Putin has commited lots of crimes in Russia. War and absolute oppression in Chechnya, murder of many civilians, then wonders why they hate him so much. That hatred will never go away either. Of course there was war there for years but most definately there was many civilians killed without any respect for life last war. Murdered many civilians using gas in Moscow Theatre siege, (Then called the campaign a success)...

Suppressing opposing voices has been a Russian tradition for centuries.

Now Putin is being nice before the Olympics in Sochi, if I had the power I would say noone go to Sochi and boycott his entire olympics. Not because of the Russian people but because directly of Putin.

Today Bashar Al Assad is killing women, children, elderly and ill, and "Putin" has not only given him the weapons for murder but also trying to defend Bashar Al Assad. Putin also has attempted to make out the Free Syrian Army fighting for democracy as terrorists and cannibals. He claims everyone who opposes Bashar is a terrorist, and makes it seem Bashar the right to murder anyone who opposes him. This is because The Syrian people would like to see Putin and his navy permanently gone from Syria never to return again. Putin has blood all over himself.

It would be wonderful to see Putin behind bars in Russia someday, in the dirtiest of prisons. It would never equate to equal punishment for what he has done.

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