Freed Putin Critic Vows To Help Russia's Political Prisoners

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's former richest man, told reporters he wants to help other political prisoners get amnesty.
Posted at 11:32 AM, Dec 22, 2013

After 10 years behind bars, Russia's former richest man — now Russia's most famous free man — is vowing to help release the rest of the country's political prisoners. 

"I don't want to be seen as a symbol for a particular situation, and I don't want to ignore the fact that there are still political prisoners. What has been done has led to the release of somebody when nobody was expecting it." (Via BBC)

According to RT, Mikhail Khodorkovsky decided to appeal for clemency after he was told he wouldn't be required to first admit guilt. Until now, that's what prevented him, he says, from seeking a pardon.  

The former oil tycoon was serving a 10-year sentence for fraud and embezzlement, though he always insisted his imprisonment was politically motivated. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Press Center of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev)  

​You see, before his arrest, he used some of his massive fortune to fund some of President Vladimir Putin's rivals. (Via Wikimedia Commons / The Kremlin

In a surprise move Friday, Putin pardoned him — surprising because it was rumored Russian prosecutors were planning a third trial against Khodorkovsky. (Via The New York Times

So why now? It's no secret Russia's been under a lot of pressure lately for its crackdown on gay rights.

And with the Sochi games less than two months away, some have speculated Putin was looking for some good PR in the run-up to the widely criticized Sochi games.  

As one Russia expert put it toForeign Policy"He played this card beautifully."

And with more and more foreign dignitaries announcing they won't be making appearances at the Winter Games, a writer for Slate explains the snubs haven't gone unnoticed, writing, "The prospect of standing alone [at Sochi], or only with the president of Ukraine for company, began to look real for the first time." (Via NBC)

Putin said his decision to pardon his former rival was guided by humanitarian principles and he took into consideration the fact that Khodorkovsky's mother was ill. 

In any case, Khodorkovsky told a Russian magazine even though he's a free man, he's not interested in going into politics or trying to regain assets of the oil company he left behind.