Khodorkovsky speaks out on plight of Russia's political prisoners

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Newly released from prison after a surprise pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin, former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky addressed the world’s media at a news conference in Berlin, Germany.

Khodorkovsky – who was Russia’s richest man when he was arrested and imprisoned in 2003 on fraud and tax evasion charges – said he would not engage in any “struggle for power” and would not re-enter business or politics.

Calling himself a “political prisoner”, he said he would engage in helping friends – such as his former business partner Platon Lebedev – and others imprisoned in Russia for similar reasons:

“Don’t think of me as a symbol that there are no political prisoners left in Russia,” he told the packed news conference held at the Berlin Wall Museum.

Khodorkovsky, who has regularly been a vocal critic of Putin, would not be drawn too deeply into his views on Russia’s leadership. But when questioned by a reporter about the start of his own downfall and the demise of his company – former oil giant Yukos – he pointed to the president:

“There is a fact, which any of you can verify – it’s public fact. A difficult meeting was held on February 19, 2003 with President Putin. Two weeks after the meeting, the first criminal case was brought against Yukos employees. That fact I know, everything else is speculation,” Khodorkovsky concluded.

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