Former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky did not plead guilty of crimes for which he was sentenced in his appeal for pardon to the Russian president and nobody named a ban on involvement in politics as a condition for his release.
"My lawyers conveyed to me that a decision on pardoning may be made. And that the confession of guilt is not put forward as a condition for my release. That was a key issue since [President Dmitry] Medvedev's times. It was absolutely not critical for me to appeal for pardon. The trial [on the second case] was a frame-up and everyone realized it perfectly well. To write one false paper in reply to another false paper - I would not feel any moral discomfort in relation to that… And there was only one problem that was not false in this false paper - the confession of guilt. Because as soon as I write that I recognize my guilt, plenty for people whom I respect will themselves in a very difficult situation. Actually any person who used to work for Yukos would become vulnerable. This time I was told there was no need to confess my guilt," Khodorkovsky said in an interview with The New Times in Berlin.
"An official appeal for pardon actually amounts to one line: "I request being relieved of further punishment because I have spent over 10 years out of 10 years and 10 months." And that's all," he said.
"Besides, there was also my personal letter to [President Vladimir] Putin in which I wrote about the situation with my mother," he said.
Asked whether he was named conditions, say, not to engage in politics, not to finance the opposition, not to say a good word about opposition figure Alexei Navalny etc, Khodorkovsky said: "No, I wasn't. In my paper I wrote what I had spoken of publicly many times: "I don't intend to engage in politics and I don't intend to fight for the return of assets [Yukos]"."
He also asked for a chance to travel abroad. "The thing is that then, on November 12, Mother was in hospital in Berlin. Fortunately, two weeks ago the doctors told her that she could return to Moscow for three months and then go back to Berlin. Thank God, that they gave this break. But as a result it happened so that we missed each other."
Khodorkovsky realized that he would not make it for Korallovo where his family is staying.
"That is how I found myself here in Berlin and they - my parents, wife and children - in Moscow. But there were no alternatives. Our government can honestly say that it did not send me away but that I asked them of that. And knowing our reality we can absolutely clearly realize that I was asked to leave the country. In the present situation realizing everything I agreed. Because the issue [mother's sickness] is too grave," he said.
"The fact that I had to fly to Berlin - and I realize that I can fly to Berlin once, like now, and if I return, I may not be allowed to leave anymore as there are enough of formal reasons that can be used - in a word, I think, this made it easier for Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] to decide on pardoning me," Khodorkovsky said.
He did not confirm that emigration, even though temporary was a condition for his release saying: "I cannot say that it was a condition. It was what simplified, facilitated the decision on pardoning. And when they write now that some representatives of special services came to the camp and I asked them some foolish questions that are written about now - nothing of that took place."
In this context Khodorkovsky said: "Vladimir Vladimirovich and I have known each other for too long. And we don't have to say unnecessary words to get a reply readable and understandable in advance."
Khodorkovsky handed his letter for Putin to his lawyer and if the prison administration had wished, it could have seen that he was writing it. "And the lawyer passed on the letter to [former German foreign minister] Dietrich Genscher. To whom specifically Mr. Genscher handed it, I don't know," Khodorkovsky said.
He confirmed that he is ready to return to Russia on certain conditions: "From the objective point of view I will return only in case I am sure that I will be able to travel, if need be. In my current family situation this is the main condition."
Khodorkovsky said he learned of the pardon from the media. "First I heard on the radio what Putin said about the third case. This gladdened me, of course, because honestly speaking I had thought that 15 more people would burden my conscience. When I heard that there would be no third case, I fell relieved. What he said at the end [that he is ready to pardon Khodorkovsky] was not said on the radio. Then the TV was switched on at around six o'clock and we all heard it all."
Khodorkovsky described how he left the penal colony and flew to Berlin via St. Petersburg. He forgot the passport which was had been for him at the colony. "We arrived in St. Petersburg, they, these guys who flew with me, told me: "Here's our passport". And gave me a foreign passport. I had to sign it. I put my signature in the passport. Straight on the plane. Then they took away the passport, left, got the departure stamp, and returned the passport to me with departure from the Russian Federation. And I was sitting on the plane waiting," he said.
Asked whether he knew that he is being expelled Khodorkovsky said: "In ten years I have learned to perfectly understand who controls what and who makes decisions. Decisions concerning me are made by one person. All these ten years. One person. All others can add or withhold their token in the framework of these global decisions."
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