News / Europe

Putin Moves to Pardon Political Prisoners Ahead of Winter Olympics

FILE - Jailed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands in the defendants' cage during a court session in Moscow in 2010.
FILE - Jailed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands in the defendants' cage during a court session in Moscow in 2010.
James Brooke
Vladimir Putin said Thursday he will amnesty Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a businessman long considered to be Russia’s most prominent political prisoner.

Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky crossed Putin in the early 2000s by building a political base to challenge the new president. Khodorkovsky, then an oil company president, was tried and convicted on economic charges. He has spent the last decade in jail.

New trial unlikely

Putin told journalists: “The order for the pardon will be issued and the person will be freed.”

Earlier, at a marathon, four-hour press conference, Russia’s president said that a new trial against Khodorkovsky would be unlikely.  

A truck leaves prison hospital number 1 where Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot group is being held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Dec. 19, 2013.A truck leaves prison hospital number 1 where Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot group is being held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Dec. 19, 2013.
x
A truck leaves prison hospital number 1 where Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot group is being held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Dec. 19, 2013.
A truck leaves prison hospital number 1 where Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot group is being held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Dec. 19, 2013.
He also implied that Russia’s new amnesty law could apply to two other cases famous in the West. Two women from the Pussy Riot feminist group are serving jail sentences, and 28 members of Greenpeace face trial for protesting near Russia’s lone offshore oil platform in the Arctic.

These Christmas amnesties seem designed to remove points of friction with the West before the Winter Olympics open in Sochi, Russia on February 7. The U.S., German and French presidents have all declined to attend the games.

Much Western criticism focuses on Russia’s new law against exposing minors to information about homosexuality. Gay activists say the law is part of a larger homophobic environment in Russia.

'Alien' values

When an American reporter asked about the law, President Putin responded: “For me, it’s important to protect our society from certain quasi-values, which are alien for our citizens.”

He accused gay groups of “imposing their views on other countries, and doing it in a quite aggressive manner.”

Russia’s president addressed another subject sensitive to many Americans -- Edward Snowden, the fugitive American computer expert. Six months ago, Snowden leaked to reporters millions of secret files from the National Security Agency, and then won asylum in Russia.  

At the press conference, Putin called Snowden “a noble” man.

“It is thanks to Snowden that a lot has changed somehow in the minds of millions of people, including in the minds of major contemporary political figures,” Russia’s leader said.

Putin’s press conference is an annual institution, broadcast nationwide, and attended by more than 1,000 reporters.

'Brotherly' act

At the outset, Russia’s president spoke forcefully to defend his bailout this week of neighboring Ukraine. Russia agreed to extend $15 billion in loans to Ukraine and to cut gas prices by one third.

Sensing that the bailout is not popular at a time when Russia’s economy is stagnating, Putin called the aid is a “brotherly” act toward the Ukrainian people, not a move to support Ukraine’s government.

“If we really say that the Ukrainian people are a brother people, and a brother country, then we are obliged to conduct ourselves as a close relative and help the Ukrainian people in this difficult situation,” he said.

Russia’s president denied that his massive aid program is designed to keep Ukraine from moving toward Europe.

"This has nothing to do with Maidan, nor Ukraine's talks with the European Union,” he said, referring to the occupation of a central square in Kyiv by pro-European protesters. “We just see that Ukraine is facing strong challenges and it has to be supported. We have such a capability and we are using it."

He argued that if Ukraine signed a free trade pact with Europe, its Soviet-era industry would collapse and the country would regress, becoming an eastern farming appendage to Europe.

Addressing Russian worries, he stressed that the $15 billion in loans would have to be paid back. Asked about loan guarantees, he only responded that a decade ago, Russia and Ukraine discussed joint administration of Soviet-era pipelines that carry natural gas from Russia to Europe through Ukraine.

Some analysts say that if Russia can win ownership of this pipeline network, it can abandon a $20 billion project to build an undersea pipeline that goes around Ukraine.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid