Vladimir Putin doesn’t regret freeing Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky from prison ten years ago, even though the latter didn’t stick to “commitments” given at the time, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian president, told journalists on Wednesday.
Peskov was asked about the order that Putin signed on December 20, 2013, releasing the tycoon. Khodorkovsky, formerly one of the wealthiest individuals in Russia, was serving a prison term for financial crimes at the time.
Putin announced that Khodorkovsky was being released, after an annual long-format press conference. He cited humanitarian concerns, namely the deteriorating health of the businessman’s mother, who was losing a battle with cancer, according to media reports.
However Peskov explained that Khodorkovsky made “certain commitments” a decade ago, which “remained on paper only.” Putin mentioned on several occasions that the parolee had pledged to stay out of politics, once out of prison.
Since then Khodorkovsky has offered contradictory remarks about the alleged commitment, stating at various points that none was given in the first place, or that the obligation was supposed to expire after his mother’s passing, which happened in 2014.
The failure to deliver on the promise, Peskov told the press, provides a “pointed characterization of the citizen you’ve mentioned.”
Khodorkovsky was the head of Yukos, a now-defunct oil giant, which he had built during the economic chaos that befell Russia in the 1990’s. He partly used his billions to fund various political causes, which he claims benefitted his home country. The UK-based Open Russia foundation, originally launched by the businessman in 2001, was banned by the Russian government in 2017 and ceased operations in 2021.
During the most recent Munich Security Conference in February, Khodorkovsky was part of a “shadow Russian delegation” of veteran anti-government activists, whom organizers invited instead of the country’s actual officials. At the conference he reportedly urged Western guests not to falter in arming Ukraine against Russia.
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