Russian oligarch Khodorkovsky pardoned after 10 years in jail

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Jailed Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has landed in Berlin on a private jet after being pardoned by President Vladimir Putin.

Khodorkovsky was freed yesterday and went straight to the airport in St Petersburg, where a jet was waiting for him, said Ludger Baumann, spokesman for OBO Bettermann, an energy consulting company that also has a charter flight operation.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed he had landed at Schoenefeld airport.

Mr Baumann said Hans-Dietrich Genscher – Germany’s foreign minister in the 1980s and 1990s – had asked company boss Ulrich Bettermann to provide a plane on Thursday after Mr Putin announced that Khodorkovsky would be pardoned.

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement that Khodorkovsky had petitioned to be allowed to travel to Germany 
to meet his mother who is 
reportedly being treated for cancer.

In his 10 years in prison on politically tinged charges of tax evasion and embezzlement, 50-year-old Khodorkovsky turned from a powerful oligarch into a respected dissident, becoming a political thinker who argued for social justice and placed the blame on Mr Putin for Russia’s stagnating economy. It wasn’t clear whether Khodorkovsky would continue his opposition to the Kremlin.

Mr Putin’s announcement less than 24 hours before that Khodorkovsky would be pardoned appeared to catch both the public and Khodorkovsky’s lawyers by surprise. His release was equally shrouded in mystery. Several hours before, Khodorkovsky’s lawyers and family said they still had no idea when he would be let out.