- POSTED: 22 Dec 2013 19:08
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Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky said on Sunday he intends to stay out of Russian politics and will only return home if certain he can leave again, after being whisked to Germany following a decade in jail.
BERLIN: Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky said on Sunday he intends to stay out of Russian politics and will only return home if certain he can leave again, after being whisked to Germany following a decade in jail.
Russia's former richest man and until recently its most famous inmate was reunited with his family in Berlin on Saturday a day after being pardoned by President Vladimir Putin.
The pardon was widely read as a Kremlin effort to mute criticism of its dismal rights record ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in February.
The former tycoon, who was twice convicted of financial crimes for financing the opposition, will address reporters on Sunday near the symbolic Cold War location of Check Point Charlie, where foreigners used to cross the border between East and West Berlin.
Ahead of the 1200 GMT news conference, he is also scheduled to address a smaller group of reporters. He arrived dressed in a smart business suit with a white shirt.
But in his first media interview since his release, Khodorkovsky revealed he had made clear his intention to stay out of politics in his request for a pardon from Putin.
"I wrote in my papers what I have repeatedly said publicly: I am not going into politics and not going to fight for the return of (his former oil firm) Yukos assets," he told the opposition magazine The New Times.
Khodorkovsky indicated that Moscow had wanted him out of the country and said he will not return home until he is certain he can leave again in full security.
"From an objective point of view, I will return only if I am certain that I will be able to leave when necessary," he told the magazine.
"Our authorities can honestly say that they did not send me into exile and that I asked for it. But knowing our realities, we can absolutely precisely understand that they wanted me out of the country," he said.
Putin's spokesman said he was free to come back. "He is free to return to Russia. Absolutely," Dmitry Peskov told AFP on Saturday.
On Saturday, the 50-year-old was reunited with his parents, who travelled to Berlin from Moscow, and with his eldest son Pavel, who lives in the United States.
During their first meeting with Khodorkovsky as a free man, his ailing 79-year-old mother Marina got out of a chauffeur-driven car, came up to her son and buried her face in his neck as he stroked her back, shown in a video footage of the reunion.
Then Khodorkovsky embraced his 80-year-old father Boris, and the three began talking, with the elder Khodorkovsky lighting up a cigarette, as friends and supporters looked on.
Khodorkovsky's extraordinary release was worked out behind the scenes with the German government and came about after negotiations between German former foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and President Putin.
In a separate interview with the Dozhd television channel, Khodorkovsky, said Putin wanted him to admit guilt, something he said was unacceptable to him.
Speaking to Dozhd television channel, he said it was Genscher who suggested that he turn to Putin for a pardon on humanitarian grounds, citing his mother's ill health.
Khodorkovsky added that he realised he would soon be released after he learned of Putin speaking to reporters on television.
"I immediately went to collect my papers because the most important thing that I wanted to take with me from the camp were papers," he said.
Germany's Greens MP Marieluise Beck, who met with Khodorkovsky for more than an hour on Saturday, said that his return to Russia was "not on the agenda" but added that she had no mandate to talk about his plans.
Khodorkovsky, widely seen as Russia's most famous post-Soviet inmate, was jailed for financial crimes in separate convictions in 2005 and 2010. He had been due for release in August 2014.
Putin shocked Russia on Thursday by saying that, after a decade behind bars, his fierce opponent had turned to him for a pardon on humanitarian grounds.
Less than 24 hours later, Khodorkovsky walked out of prison in a region near the border with Finland and flew to Berlin on a private jet sent by Genscher.
Khodorkovsky acknowledged his lightning-quick exit was stage-managed. "If someone wanted to make a movie about the 1970s and the deportation of a dissident you could not have done it better," he told the New Times.
US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the release but urged Moscow to do more to improve the rule of law. Khodorkovsky's release came amid intense activity in Russia to improve its image, with parliament also approving a major amnesty.
Two jailed members of the Pussy Riot punk band are expected to be freed under the amnesty that comes less than two months before the Olympic Games start in Sochi.
Thirty Greenpeace activists, arrested on hooliganism charges after a protest against Arctic oil drilling, are also expected to escape prosecution.