BERLIN/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– After his release from a Russian jail, former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has said he does not want to return to business or politics, but would fight for those he considers political prisoners.
Wearing a sharp suit and smiling, the now 50-year-old Khodorkovsky spoke at his first news conference since his release from prison, which was held at a museum commemorating the Berlin Wall from the Cold War era.
The Kremlin-critic was held nearly a decade behind bars on what he viewed as trumped up charges of tax evasion and fraud.His supporters linked the accusations to his support for opposition parties. Kodorkovsky urged media not to forget other political prisoners and thanked those who supported him throughout his ordeal.
Overjoyed and emotional, he said: “I think that the attention of mass media ensures that many people who are unjustly imprisoned today in our Russian jails keep alive, stay healthy and keep up hope of being released.”
Khodorkovsky added: “So basically I like to express my gratitude, from me personally and on behalf of others for what you are doing.”
Khodorkovsky was to be released next year, but unexpectedly freed Friday after Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned him. Putin said Khodorkovsky was granted amnesty on “humanitarian grounds” to visit his cancer-stricken mother.
Critics view the release, however, as an attempt by Putin to reduce international criticism of Russia’s human rights record, ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It was also the result of diplomatic efforts by Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the elderly former German foreign minister.
Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man when he was detained in 2003 on his private jet at a Siberian airport. His fortune is now believed to be a mere shadow of what it once was, though he claimed his financial position is still good.
Khodorkovsky made clear however there is more than money in life.
He already met family members at the luxurious Adlon hotel overlooking the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
That was a dramatic contrast to the prison camp in the sub-Arctic forest near the Finnish border where he became one of the world’s most famous detainees.
Khodorkovsky said that despite the Kremlin’s public assurances that he was free to return to Russia, he could not do so because there was no guarantee he would be able to leave again, if needed.