This photograph of Mikhail Khodorkovsky arriving at Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport is the first of him as a free man in over 10 years.
It all happened so quickly. Just yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the jailed oligarch, perhaps his greatest enemy, was to be pardoned. This morning, the Khodorkovsky camp (who yesterday were saying they knew nothing about his pardon), announced that he was already free.
Russia Today reports that he was taken away from his prison camp in Segezha, Republic of Karelia, by helicopter, and that he later boarded a private plane to Germany. According to the Swiss website 20 Minuten, Khodorkovsky will first meet his mother in Germany where they will seek medical treatment, and he will then continue to Switzerland.
Right now it appears that Khodorkovsky thought his mother was in Germany, where she had been previously for treatment. Khodorkovsky’s parents, rather sadly, were shocked when they were told by German reporters that he had landed in Berlin and not Moscow, but they will be travelling soon.
It’s a remarkable escape for one of the most fascinating characters in Modern Russia. Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man but he was arrested in 2003 on charges that many international observers said were politically motivated.
Khodorkovsky’s official statement on his release is below:
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.
The issue of admission of guilt was not raised.
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. I am very much looking forward to the minute when I will be able to hug my close ones and personally shake hands with all my friends and associates.
I am constantly thinking of those who continue to remain imprisoned.
My special thanks is to Mr. Hans-Dietrich Genscher for his personal participation in my fate.
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.
I will welcome the opportunity to celebrate this upcoming holiday season with my family. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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