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Khodorkovsky Press Conference In Quotes

Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky spoke on December 22 at a Berlin news conference two days after he was pardoned by President Vladimir Putin.

On the circumstances of his release and ending up in Germany:

"I had no say in the course of my convoy to freedom. Woken up at 2 o'clock in the morning by the head of our prison colony, I was told I was to go home. In the course of my journey I found out it would end in Berlin. Prison guards from my convoy only left my side as the door of the plane of a German airline was shut behind me."

"My release has become possible thanks to media, including those represented here [at the news conference]. Thank you all very much. I believe that media's attention enables a great number of people who are unjustly jailed today in our Russian prisons to preserve their lives, physical health, and hope of regaining their freedom."

"I am very grateful to [former German Foreign Minister] Mr. Hans-Dietrich Genscher. His efforts led to the point from which maybe the Yukos case that has broken dozens if not hundreds of lives has finally, after a decade, started coming to a close."

"I am very grateful to [German Chancellor] Mrs. Angela Merkel, whose role in my being free today I learned about only after my arrival [to Berlin]."

On political prisoners:

"Don't perceive me as a symbol of [a fact] that there are no more political prisoners left in Russia. I call on you to perceive me as a symbol of the fact that efforts of civil society can even lead to the release of people whose release is not being presumed by anyone. We simply ought to continue working to free Russia -- and, actually, other world countries as well -- of political prisoners."

"I believe that those who are currently in prisons over unjust charges, including the prisoners of the Bolotnaya case, first and foremost ought to preserve themselves, their physical health and mind. This is most important. The fight for their freedom should be spearheaded by us -- those who are free."

"I hope very much that while dealing with [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin, politicians from Western countries will remember -- simply remember -- that I am not Russia's last political prisoner. [With that in mind] they know better what to do and how."

On being able to return to Russia:

"Mr. [Dmitry] Peskov, the Russian president's spokesman, has said that there are no obstacles for me to come back to Russia at any time. Unfortunately, today I have no guarantees that [once I return] I would still be able to fly [out of Russia] on business -- and at the moment I consider my family issues to be the priority."

"Formally, in order for me to be able [to come in and out of Russia freely] the Russian Supreme Court must confirm the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights, which says that the claim against me and my friend Platon Lebedev in the first case against Yukos amounting to some $500 million has to be withdrawn. It hasn't happened so far and from the formal point of you, once I enter Russia, I may not be granted permission to leave."

On Vladimir Putin:

"Writing a pardon request was never an issue for me. It was clear that my fate and the fate of my colleagues in any case was in President Putin's hands. Things like whether I'd be released by pardon or after the end of my prison term would have or would have not happened following a direct order from Putin -- no one else would have made this decision without his knowledge. From this point of view, a pardon was just a formality for me. What was not a formality was [a condition of me] admitting guilt.... It was the only reason I had been refusing suggestions to ask for a pardon for the last almost five years -- squarely because of the phrase that says, ‘I admit my guilt’ [that used to be included in the application for clemency]."

"[Russian] law enables President Putin to stay in power -- provided, of course, that people will elect him -- for 10 more years. Recently he has been asked -- I read about it -- if he considers it necessary to be named president for life. His answer was a convincing enough 'no.' I hope he will not change his point of view."

"It would be too presumptuous of me to give advice to experienced politicians from the West how to handle relations with such a complicated person as the president of my country is. Thus I will not do it."

On the Sochi Olympics:

"As to Sochi, my position is that it is a sports festival; it is a festival for millions of people and perhaps we should not spoil it. Another thing is that we should not make it into a personal festival for President Putin -- perhaps that would not be right either. However, I would not ruin a festival for millions of people."

On his future plans:

"I do not plan to return to business. I believe that in the course of my business carrier I have achieved everything I wanted. I headed a large and successful company that had been number two in Russia and I headed it the way that investment analysts of the time considered rather successfully. I am not interested in repeating this success. My financial situation is not making it inevitable for me to work in order to make a living."

"The remaining time I have for an active life I would like to devote to paying back those who are both having a harder time than I do -- meaning those who are still in prisons -- and the entire Russian society that badly needs to change a little for all of us to have a better life in Russia."

"I am not going into politics, which I mentioned in my letter to President Putin and have stated many times in the past. I am going to get involved in social activities. In other words, struggling for power is not my cup of tea."

On Ukraine and Yulia Tymoshenko:

"I wish from the bottom of my heart that [former Ukrainian Prime Minister] Yulia [Tymoshenko] will be free in the nearest future. I hope very much that [Ukrainian] President [Viktor] Yanukovych, who lately has been in touch with the president of my country rather frequently, will follow his example in this particular issue -- releasing a political prisoner. At least one for starters."