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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
MOSCOW/BERLIN/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Former billionaire tycoon and Kremlin critic, Mikhail Khodorkovsky has flown to Germany after being pardoned by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, arrived in Berlin, ending a decade in Russian prisons for what many in the West believe were trumped-up offenses.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin pardoned his long-time rival Friday morning, local time.
Prison authorities said the former leader of the country’s largest oil company, Yukos, left a prison in the remote northwestern village of Segezha near the Arctic Circle.
Putin claims Khodorkovsky asked for the pardon because of his elderly mother’s poor health. Kodorkovsky’s mother is suffering of cancer and has been treated in Germany.
AMNESTY REQUEST DENIED
Yet, the 50-year-old former business man’s lawyers have denied he asked for amnesty.
Former Yukos lawyer Svetlana Bakhima isn’t surprised.
She says freeing Russia’s most famous prisoner — along with an amnesty for two jailed members of an ant-Putin punk band and 30-Greenpeace activists is aimed at easing international criticism of Russia’s human rights record, ahead of February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“All this is happening at once, on the eve of the Olympics, which has probably played a role because now many leaders refuse to come to our country,” she said. “Putin’s move today will soften the situation in the country ahead of the games.”
However on the streets of Moscow people divided over his release.
“Of course it’s all great, but Putin had to do it, you see?,” a woman said. “Otherwise the Olympics would have failed.”
Another local resident said, “He should stay in jail. He robbed Russia, so that’s why he should stay there.”
However Khodorkovsky’s supporters say the oil tycoon angered the Kremlin by funding opposition parties and also was believed to harbour personal political ambitions.
Kodorkovsky was worth billions of dollars but his company was effectively crushed under the weight of a $28 billion back-tax bill following his detention in 2003 on controversial tax evasion charges.
His current net worth is now known, but experts say it’s at most a mere shadow of his onetime fortune.
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