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Russia

Freed Khodorkovsky reunited with family in Germany

The Russian oil tycoon pardoned by President Vladimir Putin has called a press conference in Berlin for Sunday. He's spending his first full day in the German capital meeting family after a decade in detention.

Khodorkovsky to hold press conference

A spokesman for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, said that he would speak to reporters in Berlin at 1 p.m. local time (1200 UTC) on Sunday.

The former oil magnate met his son, Pavel, on Saturday and his parents - including his cancer-stricken mother - having landed in Berlin on a commercial flight from Moscow on Friday. His mother's illness was given by Russian authorities as the reason for his pardon and release from jail.

Chodorkowski - Presse vor dem Hotel Adlon

The press vigil outside the Adlon hotel

Unconfirmed reports suggested he was staying in the Adlon Hotel in Berlin, where dozens of journalists held vigil on Saturday.

In a brief earlier statement, Khodorkovsky had said he was looking forward to the moment when "I can hug my family and personally shake the hands of all my friends and colleagues," after years behind bars.

Khodorkovsky's release and relocation moved at breakneck speed. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday that the former oil magnate, imprisoned on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement in 2003, had requested a pardon. By Friday morning, Putin had signed the papers and Khodorkovsky was freed from a prison camp in the northern Karelia region around lunch time. He landed in Berlin late in the afternoon, barely 24 hours after his pardon was first mooted.

Putin said that the pardon also included a "confession" from Khodorkovsky, although the prisoner said in a statement on his website that the "issue of admission of guilt was not raised" during the talks.

Khodorkovsky thanks ex-FM Genscher

Once at the head of Russian oil company Yukos, Khodorkovsky became a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin during his first stint as head of state. He was arrested in 2003 on various charges of financial irregularities and convicted to 11 years in a prison camp, ultimately serving just over 10. Yukos was broken up and sold in 2004 to meet a hefty back-taxes bill from the authorities.

Former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (pictured above with Khodorkovsky) emerged on Friday as an instrumental figure in Khodorkovsky's release. The Free Democrat politician said Khodorkovsky's legal team had requested his assistance, and also on Friday thanked President Putin, who received Genscher twice to discuss the matter.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and new Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier both welcomed Khodorkovsky's amnesty. The German foreign ministry said that the Russian had been granted a one-year visa on arrival on Friday.

msh/ph (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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