Mon, Dec 23, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Russian critic reunited with family in Germany

TAKING A BREAK:The Russian president’s spokesman said he did not know why former oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky decided on Berlin as a meeting place

AP, BERLIN

Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks during his first interview after his release with Russian weekly newspaper New Times in the Adlon Hotel in Berlin on Saturday.

Photo: AFP / NEWTIMES. RU

The former Russian oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky was reunited with his family in Berlin on Saturday, a day after being released from a decade-long imprisonment in Russia.

Khodorkovsky, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was meeting with his eldest son, Pavel, and his parents, Marina and Boris, who had flown separately to the German capital to meet him, Khodorkovsky’s spokesman Christian Hanne said.

“Today is family day,” Hanne said.

Khodorkovsky also spoke to the editor of the Russian weekly New Times in what is believed to be his first interview since his release.

In its video recording released by the magazine, Khodorkovsky, wearing a black pullover, looked tired but composed as he recalled tough prison conditions.

He said the only break from the prison regime came when his wife and other family members were allowed to see him for a few days.

“During these years I had an opportunity — three days per quarter during four years out of 10 — to spend the nights in a visiting room, when I had visitors,” he said.

His son Pavel Khodorkovsky also spoke briefly to reporters waiting outside Berlin’s luxury Adlon Hotel.

“I’m thrilled to be here in Berlin today because my father is free,” he said. “My family is finally united and we are very, very happy to be together.”

“As you can imagine my father is going through a lot right now and he cannot possibly be with all of you today,” the son said, adding that a news conference was planned for yesterday.

“But he really appreciates all the support that he has received through these years,” Pavel said.

Khodorkovsky was released from prison on Friday, hours after being pardoned by Putin, and immediately flown to Berlin on a private jet organized by former German minister of foreign affars Hans-Dietrich Genscher.

The 86-year-old veteran diplomat had spent years working behind the scenes to lobby Putin for Khodorkovsky’s release.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Friday that he did not know why Khodorkovsky chose to fly to Germany.

“That was his own decision. No one has dictated him anything,” Peskov said, adding that Khodorkovsky was free to return to Russia whenever he wanted.

“He is the citizen of the Russian Federation, no one can prevent a citizen of the Russian Federation from returning to Russia,” Peskov said.

Peskov said that Khodorkovsky had submitted a formal appeal for pardon and a longer personal letter to Putin.

One reason Khodorkovsky chose to make his first destination Berlin could be that his mother has received medical treatment there in the past.

The news conference yesterday, at which the 50-year-old was expected to speak about his plans, was scheduled to be held at Checkpoint Charlie — a crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War that has now become a popular tourist destination.

Once Russia’s richest man, the billionaire boss of the country’s largest oil company, Yukos, was arrested in 2003 and charged with tax evasion. His current net worth is unknown.

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