Freed oligarch arrives in Berlin after Putin signs surprise pardon
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed oligarch who became the Kremlin's most famous critic, has arrived in Germany to possible exile after 10 years in jail.
In a whirlwind release granted less than 24 hours after his surprise pardon by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, Mr Khodorkovsky left prison in the remote town of Segezha in northwestern Russia just minutes after the reprieve was published on the Kremlin's website.
Once the richest man in Russia, the former oil tycoon immediately boarded a private jet that carried him to Berlin, where he landed at 4.30pm.
It was a fitting end to Mr Khodorkovsky's decade-long incarceration, which began when his own private jet was surrounded on the tarmac at Novosibirsk Airport in Siberia in 2003.
Upon landing in Germany, Mr Khodorkovksky thanked his supporters, including Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the former German foreign minister who played a key role in negotiating his release.
"On November 12, I asked the president of Russia to pardon me due to my family situation, and I am glad his decision was positive," he said in a prepared statement.
"I would like to thank everyone who has been following the Yukos case all these years for the support you provided to me, my family and all those who were unjustly convicted and continue to be persecuted."
He continued: "First of all I am going to repay my debt to my parents, my wife and my children, and I am very much looking forward to meeting them."
There was strong speculation that he would not return to Russia, taking the path of exile followed by other oligarchs who have fallen out with the Kremlin.
The pardon appears to be calculated to ease pressure from Western states ahead of the February 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.
It followed a general amnesty that will see several other high-profile prisoners released in coming days, including two members of the punk protest group Pussy Riot and 30 Greenpeace activists. (© Daliy Telegraph, London)