News / Europe

    Russian President to Pardon Jailed Tycoon Khodorkovsky

    FILE - Mikhail Khodorkovsky, center, and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev, right, are escorted to a court room in Moscow on December 27, 2010.
    FILE - Mikhail Khodorkovsky, center, and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev, right, are escorted to a court room in Moscow on December 27, 2010.
    Reuters
    President Vladimir Putin is to pardon one of his best known opponents, jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in what may be a gesture to critics of his human rights record before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics.
     
    Putin made the announcement that he would soon free Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, after a marathon news conference in which he exuded confidence that he has reasserted his authority in the face of street protests. He also confirmed that women from the Pussy Riot group would be also be released.
     
    Khodorkovsky, 50, spectacularly fell out with Putin a decade ago and had his Yukos oil company dissolved following his arrest on fraud and tax evasion charges in 2003.
     
    He became Putin's nemesis, a symbol of what investors say is the Kremlin's abuse of the courts for political ends - and share prices rose in Moscow on the news he would be pardoned.
     
    Putin has long singled out Khodorkovsky, who would be due for release in August, for bitter personal attacks, once saying that “a thief should sit in jail”.
     
    On Thursday, he said: “He has been in jail already more than 10 years. This is a serious punishment.”
     
    Saying that Khodorkovsky's mother was ill, he added: “I decided that, with these circumstances in mind, we should make a decision to pardon him.”
     
    Russian stocks rose by 1.3 percent after Putin's comment, even though his lawyers and mother said he had not asked for a pardon. One of the lawyers said, however, that Putin did not need a pardon request to release him from prison.
     
    Investors had long seen the treatment of a man who built a business empire on the ruins of Soviet communism as evidence of the weakness of property rights and the rule of law in Russia.
     
    Supporters say Khodorkovsky was jailed to curb a political challenge to Putin, bring his oil assets under state control and send a signal to other wealthy “oligarchs” to toe the line. His assets were sold off, mainly into state hands.
     
    In the eyes of Kremlin critics at home and abroad, Khodorkovsky's jailing is one of the biggest stains on the record of Putin, who was first elected president in 2000 and has not ruled out seeking another six-year term in 2018.
     
    Khodorkovsky's mother, Marina, who will turn 80 next year, said she had just heard the reports and was unaware of a request for a pardon.
     
    “I want to believe he will pardon him,” she told Reuters.  “I want to believe Putin is not totally lost.”
     
    Khodorkovsky is due for release in August. But he has previously had his jail term extended on other charges and analysts have said Putin would allow Khodorkovsky to walk free only if he no longer regarded him as a political threat.
     
    Freeing Khodorkovsky and the two women from Pussy Riot, jailed over a profanity-laced protest against Putin in a Russian Orthodox Church, could ease criticism of the president before the Sochi Olympics in February.
     
    He has staked a great deal of personal prestige on the Games, and is under fire over a law banning the spread of “anti-gay propaganda” among minors.
     
    Thirty people jailed over a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling are also expected to avoid trial under the amnesty approved by parliament this week, although Putin said it was not drawn up with Pussy Riot or Greenpeace in mind.
     
    Relaxed and confident
     
    Putin's performance at the news conference was much smoother than at similar meetings with the media and public in 2012 and 2011, when the opposition had mobilized mainly young, middle-class protesters and held the biggest protests against him since he rose to power in 2000.
     
    Critics say the prosecution of the women from Pussy Riot was part of a clampdown on dissent after Putin weathered the protests and won a third term as president in March 2012 following a stint as prime minister.
     
    His comments, on subjects ranging from Russia's economy to its role in persuading Syria to destroy its chemical arms, underlined his commitment to conservative policies to woo core voters since he returned to the Kremlin.
     
    He largely avoided the veiled barbs he has directed in the past at the West and portrayed Russia as a world power with growing influence.
     
    “We have really made a significant contribution to the solving of acute, longstanding problems,” Putin said, mentioning efforts to end the conflict in Syria and Iran's nuclear dispute.
     
    “Without our joint work with the Americans, Europeans and our Chinese friends, it would have been impossible to achieve these results,” he said. “We did not shift position, we did not, as they, say do any zig-zagging.”
     
    Putin has often used such occasions to rail against the West and accused the United States of backing the protests two years ago which undermined his authority. This time he took a largely non-confrontational approach, despite at one point criticizing Western sanctions against Iran.
     
    As expected, he used the news conference to confirm an increasingly conservative course. Asked about religious values since he moved closer to the Russian Orthodox Church in the past two years, he acknowledged he was taking “a conservative approach” but added that this was taking Russia forward.
     
    He also took a swipe at Pussy Riot over the group's protest in the main Russia Orthodox cathedral in Moscow in colorful ski masks and short dresses almost two years ago, calling their protest disgraceful. One of three women jailed over the incident has already been released.
     
    Putin also defended Russia's response to the Greenpeace protest, saying it should serve as a lesson and Moscow would toughen steps to guard against interference in its development of the region.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Dr. Nazarbayev from: Russia
    December 19, 2013 11:02 AM
    now that is truly a political prisoner... a prisoner of political and personal spite, jealousy and vindictiveness by Putin...and what did the "West" do..?? NOTHING...!!! here we have a brilliant guy who loved his country and refused to see it degenerate into a mafia state... being "pardoned" by the dictator who put him there...

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.