Khodorkovsky 'will not go into politics'

Sunday 22 December 2013 20.18
Mikhail Khodorkovsky flew to Berlin after his release from a prison near the Arctic Circle yesterday
Mikhail Khodorkovsky flew to Berlin after his release from a prison near the Arctic Circle yesterday

Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin after ten years in jail, has said in remarks published on Sunday that he would not go into politics or seek to regain assets of his former oil company, Yukos.

Mr Khodorkovsky, who flew to Berlin after his release from a prison near the Arctic Circle yesterday, said that there were no conditions attached to his release and that he had made no admission of guilt in asking Mr Putin for a pardon.

"I do not intend to get involved in politics and do not intend to fight for the return of assets," Mr Khodorkovsky told the Russian magazine The New Times in a filmed interview, excerpts of which were shown online.

He said he told Mr Putin that in a letter sent with his pardon request.

Once Russia’s richest man, Mr Khodorkovsky had been in jail since his arrest in 2003 on fraud and tax evasion charges.

He was convicted in two trials that Kremlin critics say were politically motivated punishment for challenging Mr Putin.

He had funded opposition parties, questioned state decisions on oil pipeline policy, raised corruption allegations and fashioned himself as an enlightened, Western-style post-Soviet executive.

Yukos was broken up and sold off after his arrest.

Its main production asset ended up in the hands of state oil company Rosneft, which is now Russia's biggest producer and is headed by a close Putin ally, Igor Sechin.

Mr Khodorkovsky, whose mother is ill and who said he requested the pardon for family reasons, said he would return to Russia only if he was certain he could leave again at any time.

"In my current family situation that is the main condition," said Mr Khodorkovsky, who looked confident and composed.

He said late last month that his mother Marina, 79, was fighting cancer.

Mr Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has indicated there was no secret deal and said Mr Khodorkovsky is free to return to Russia.

But he has also suggested the request for a pardon meant Mr Khodorkovsky had admitted guilt. Mr Khodorkovsky had refrained from asking for a pardon because of the Kremlin's long-standing position on that, and he said he had not done so now.

"For me, admitting guilt is unacceptable," he said in a separate interview with Russian internet and TV channel Dozhd.

Mr Khodorkovsky fell out with the Kremlin before his arrest as Putin, then in his first term, reined in influential "oligarchs" who made fortunes snapping up assets in the chaotic years of Boris Yeltsin's rule following the collapse of Soviet communism.

Mr Putin had singled him out for bitter personal attacks since his arrest, telling the country that "a thief should be in jail" and graphically suggesting Mr Khodorkovsky had blood on his hands in reference to the murder conviction of a Yukos security chief.