BERLIN – At an emotional press conference barely two days after he was freed from a Russian prison, Mikhail Khodorkovsky vowed Sunday to do all he can to ensure the release of other political prisoners in Russia.
The former oil tycoon spent 10 years in jail on what the West considers trumped-up political charges by President Vladimir Putin’s government. He was pardoned Friday and flew to Berlin, where he held a tumultuous news conference Sunday.
The 50-year-old said he shouldn’t be viewed as a symbol that there are no more political prisoners in Russia and said he would do “all I can do” to ensure the release of others.
“The time that is left for me is time I would like to devote to the activity of paying back the debts to the people . . . and by that I mean the people who are still in prison,” he said.
However, Khodorkovsky also said he would not be “involved in the struggle for power” in Russia.
In other comments:
• He thanked media pressure and German officials for helping secure his release.
• He said the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are a “celebration of sport” that should not be “damaged” by a boycott. He also said the event “should not become a great party for President Putin.”
• He said he would not be returning to the world of business since “my financial situation doesn’t require me to work just to earn some more money.”
Earlier, Khodorkovsky said he wouldn’t “sponsor” the Russian opposition or seek the return of his stake in oil firm Yukos, according to the German news agency dpa.
The comments appeared to quash speculation that Khodorkovsky would take a leading role in the political opposition against Putin, who pardoned him Friday.
Asked whether he planned to take legal action to reclaim the assets of his dismantled Yukos oil company.
“I won’t fight for my stake in Yukos,” dpa quoted him as saying.
Khodorkovsky flew on a private jet to Berlin right after his release Friday.
Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky was imprisoned in 2003 for tax evasion and money-laundering in cases that were widely criticized as political revenge. Khodorkovsky had challenged Putin’s dominance by funding opposition parties and was also believed at the time to have personal political ambitions.