Russia’s Most Famous Prisoner Freed

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree pardoning Mikhail Khodorkovsky on the premise of “the principles of humanity.”

Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oil tycoon spent over ten years in prison after charges of tax evasion and theft.

The president said on Thursday that Khodorkovsky had asked him for clemency because his mother was ill.

This of course is in contradiction to what Khodorkovsky had repeatedly said earlier that he would not ask Mr. Putin for a pardon because it would mean admitting guilt.

However, Khodorkovsky issued a statement after his release from prison and arrival in Germany confirming that he had sought a pardon from Mr. Putin for family reasons but had not admitted guilt on the fraud charges.

“I appealed to the Russian president on November 12 with a request for a pardon in connection with family circumstances,” he said. “The issue of an admission of guilt was not raised.
“I am very eager for the moment when I can hug my loved ones,” he said. “I will welcome the opportunity to celebrate this upcoming holiday season with my family.”

Analysts have speculated that Putin’s motive for the freeing of Russia’s former richest oil baron, the 50-year-old Khodorkovsky may be to ease international criticism of Russia’s human rights record ahead of next February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.