Freed from jail, Khodorkovsky reunited with family in Berlin

Reuters

BERLIN/MOSCOW, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was reunited with family members in Berlin on Saturday, a day after he was released from a decade-long jail term during which he became one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critics.

Khodorkovsky, 50, was released from a remote prison near the Arctic Circle on Friday after Putin pardoned him with the stroke of a pen. He immediately flew to Berlin, where his relatives arrived on Saturday.

"My family is finally reunited and we're very, very happy to be together after the 10 years of separation," his son Pavel Khodorkovsky, who flew in from the United States, said outside the Adlon Hotel in the German capital.

"As you can imagine my father is going through a lot right now," he said.

Khodorkovsky's elderly parents, Marina and Boris, also flew in and were reunited with their son, a spokesman for the family said.

Khodorkovsky, who had been in jail since his arrest in October 2003 on fraud and tax evasion charges, was convicted twice of financial crimes, to which he pleaded not guilty.

Kremlin critics say he angered Putin by funding opposition parties, questioning state decisions on oil pipeline policy, raising corruption allegations and fashioning himself as an enlightened, Western-style post-Soviet executive.

In an excerpt from the first comment to the media since his release, Khodorkovsky told Russian magazine The New Times in a video interview that his family was allowed only a handful of overnight visits during the years he was in prison.

"There was an opportunity - three days, once per quarter, during four years out of the 10 - to spend nights in the visiting room," said Khodorkovsky, who look composed and relaxed in a black turtleneck sweater.

Putin's decision to pardon Khodorkovsky, who had been due to be released next August, was widely seen as an effort to improve Russia's image before it hosts the Winter Olympics in February.

Putin said on Thursday that Khodorkovsky sought a pardon because his mother was ill. Khodorkovsky said in a statement on Friday that he had asked Putin for a pardon for unspecified family reasons.

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