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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid