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Europe

‘Struggle for power not for me’, says Khodorkovsky

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-22

Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Sunday gave his first press conference since being freed from prison, saying that although he won’t shy away from public activity, he has no plans on getting directly involved in Russian politics.

Khodorkovsky said at the news conference in Berlin “the struggle for power is not for me,” but that he intends to do everything he can to help political prisoners in Russia to freedom.

"I will do everything so that there are none left,” he said.

Russia’s former richest man, and until recently its most famous inmate after spending more than a decade behind bars, was reunited with his family in Berlin on Saturday a day after being pardoned by President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin critic, who immediately left his native Russia for Germany upon his release, told reporters that he only intends to return home again if he is certain he can leave again.

Putin’s pardon was widely read as a Kremlin effort to mute criticism of its dismal rights record ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February, Putin’s pet project.

The release came amid intense political activity to improve Russia’s image, with parliament also approving a major amnesty. Two jailed members of the Pussy Riot punk band are expected to be freed under the amnesty bill.

Thirty Greenpeace activists, arrested on hooliganism charges after a protest against Arctic oil drilling, are also expected to escape prosecution.

Call for Tymoshenko’s release

Khodorkovsky, who was twice convicted of financial crimes his supporters say was Putin’s revenge for financing the opposition, said he hopes Putin will not stay in power for life and urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to follow Putin’s example and free opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

The former Yukos oil company chief said he is in a good financial situation and does not intend to go back into business.

Khodorkovsky’s extraordinary release came about after behind-the-scenes negotiations between German former foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and President Putin.

In a separate interview with the Dozhd television channel, Khodorkovsky, his white hair closely cropped, said Putin had wanted him to admit guilt, something he said was unacceptable to him.

Speaking to Dozhd television channel, he said it was Genscher who suggested that he turn to Putin for a pardon on humanitarian grounds, citing his mother’s ill health.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2013-12-22

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