MOSCOW, December 20 (RIA Novosti) – Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has flown to Germany after being released from prison on a presidential pardon, Russia’s penal authorities said Friday.
“Upon his release, Khodorkovsky made a personal request about collecting the relevant documents to go abroad. After being freed he flew to Germany, where his mother is being treated,” the Federal Prison Service said in a statement.
Khodorkovsky has landed in Berlin’s Schoenefeld Airport, news agency Reuters reported, citing the German Foreign Ministry.
His lawyer Anton Drel is with him, Khodorkovsky’s press center said. Drel “has promised that a special statement will be issued soon,” the press center said.
The Kremlin released a decree on Friday that said a pardon for Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest person, had been granted on humanitarian grounds and would be implemented immediately.
President Vladimir Putin told reporters on Thursday that he decided to sign the pardon after receiving a request for clemency from Khodorkovsky, citing his mother’s deteriorating health.
The former tycoon’s mother, Marina Khodorkovskaya, said Friday that she did not know her son’s whereabouts and was unable to take in the news of his release. “I have not yet really processed it fully,” Khodorkovskaya told Russian television channel Rossiya-24.
Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant said Friday that he had been informed of his client’s release by prison officials, but did not know Khodorkovsky's current whereabouts.
Khodorkovsky had not hidden his concern over the health of his parents, and in an article in the New York Times last month detailing his mother's battle with cancer since the age of 45 wrote that, "my mother is now nearly 80 years old and again facing cancer and more surgeries."
The location of Khodorkovsky’s mother was not immediately clear, but Dozhd television channel reported that she was currently staying at a school for orphans in the Moscow Region that was built with money from Khodorkovsky’s former oil company, Yukos.
Khodorkovsky's father, Boris, speaking on the phone from the Moscow region, told The Associated Press news agency that he and his wife, were intending to fly to Germany on Saturday.
Putin announced the decision to release Khodorkovsky while speaking with journalists after a marathon press conference Thursday.
“[Khodorkovsky] cites humanitarian reasons,” Putin told reporters. “In line with the law, Mikhail Borisovich [Khodorkovsky] should have signed the necessary document [requesting a pardon], which he didn’t do. But recently he signed this document, and it was addressed to me with an appeal for clemency,” he said.
Putin said that Khodorkovsky had already served a long sentence for a serious crime and that he would sign off on the pardon. “The order for the pardon will be issued, and this person will be freed,” Putin said.
The news of Khodorkovsky's impending release was unexpected for many of his supporters, including his lawyers, who appeared to be stunned by Putin’s decision.
Khodorkovsky, 50, has spent more than a decade in prison following his arrest on a Siberian runway in 2003 and two subsequent convictions for fraud, tax evasion and embezzlement.
The tycoon drew unwelcome attention from the authorities early on in Putin’s first presidential term by actively supporting and funding opposition parties.
Khodorkovsky has always maintained his innocence, claiming that the cases against him were Kremlin retribution for political and business ambitions. The government maintains that the matter was purely criminal.
Khodorkovsky’s former business partner Platon Lebedev, who was convicted alongside him, remains in prison and is due to be released next year.
Lebedev’s lawyer Alexei Miroshnichenko told the RAPSI news service on Friday after a meeting with his client that Lebedev had no plans to seek a presidential pardon.
Updated with new details, destination, and background on mother's illness and whereabouts