Khodorkovsky challenges Putin after jail pardon
Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky yesterday promised not to seek power in Russia but said he would fight for the freedom of people he considered political prisoners, challenging Vladimir Putin two days after a presidential pardon freed him from jail.
Khodorkovsky told reporters in Berlin that "the struggle for power is not for me", but made clear he would put pressure on Putin and urged world leaders to do the same.
"We need to work further so that there would be no more political prisoners left in Russia and other countries," he told a news conference at a museum commemorating the Berlin Wall. "I am going to do my utmost in this regard."
Putin unexpectedly announced on Thursday that he would pardon Khodorkovsky, who had been in jail on fraud and tax evasion charges since 2003,and was seen by many as a political prisoner.
He was released from a prison camp near the Arctic Circle on Friday and flew to Berlin.
He said he would not advise leaders on how to deal with Russia's "complex" president but added: "I just hope politicians from Western countries will keep in mind that I'm not the last political prisoner in Russia when they talk to Putin."
Emotional at times but looking healthy and composed in a dark suit and blue necktie, Khodorkovsky, said that there were no conditions attached to his release and that he had made noadmission of guilt in asking Putin for a pardon.
But he said that despite the Kremlin's public assurances that he was free to return to Russia, he could not do so now because there was no guarantee he would be able to leave agai if necessary.
He said the decision to leave Russia immediately after his release had not been his.
"I had no choice. I was woken at 2 a.m. by the head of prison camp and he told me I was going home," he said. "During the trip I learned that the trip ended in Berlin. I saw on the door of the airplane that it was a German airplane."
The former Yukos oil company chief said his financial position was good and he had no plans to go back into business, but made clear he had not made big decisions about his future, saying repeatedly he had only been free for 36 hours.