Billionaire tycoon and Kremlin critic, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has flown to Germany after being pardoned by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.
On Thursday, Putin signed a decree pardoning him on humanitarian grounds. Khodorkovsky’s lawyers confirmed that on Friday morning he left the prison colony he was being kept in near the Arctic Circle.
The Russian federal prison service said he had left Russia for Germany and a German foreign office spokesman confirmed that he had landed in Berlin mid-afternoon local time.
Khodorkovsky had spent the last 10 years in jail on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement. His supporters say he was a political prisoner.
Khodorkovsky was Russia’s richest man and the boss of the country’s largest oil company. He managed to anger Putin during his first term as president by funding opposition parties.
Putin has said Khodorkovsky asked for the pardon, because of his elderly mother’s poor health. However Khodorkovsky’s lawyers deny this.
The move comes on the heels of an amnesty for two members of the Pussy Riot punk band and 30 Greenpeace activists. Many believe Putin is responding to criticism of his human rights record ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.