Khodorkovsky’s fast-track pardon and release from jail
Less than 24 hours after President Vladimir Putin said he intended to grant a pardon to former oil-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, he was a free man after over a decade in jail.
But the operation to free him was kept under tight wraps with no images surfacing of the newly-liberated Kremlin critic who immediately boarded a flight to Germany.
Here is a timeline of how Khodorkovsky’s release unfolded since Putin’s announcement stunned Russia. All times are Moscow time (GMT +4).
Thursday, December 19
17:00 pm – President Vladimir Putin says in a conversation with a journalist after his annual press conference that he has received a request for pardon from Mikhail Khodorkovsky and intends to grant it.
17:30 pm – Khodorkovsky’s mother Marina Khodorkovskaya and his legal team deny any knowledge of the request for pardon.
But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells AFP the request was personally signed by the former owner of the Yukos oil company.
Friday, December 20
Early morning: The first journalists arrive at Segezha in the northern Karelia region to await Khodorkovsky’s possible exit from the local penal colony.
Meanwhile a Kommersant newspaper report quotes an unnamed source as saying that Khodorkovsky was recently visited by officers of the Russian Security Service who warned him of a possible third criminal case against him and told him his mother’s cancer was worsening.
12:00 pm – The Kremlin says Putin has signed the decree granting a pardon to Khodorkovsky. The decree is posted on the official website. Normal procedure requires decrees to be sent to prison authorities via government communication channels and then transferred to a specific colony.
12:30 pm – Interfax news agency quotes a source saying that Khodorkovsky has been freed and left his penal colony in Segezha.
14:00 pm – State television airs footage of a helicopter near the colony, leading to speculation that he could have been airlifted to an undisclosed location.
15:00 pm – Khodorkovsky’s lawyers arrive in Segezha, receive confirmation that their client has been freed and has left the colony premises.
Meanwhile RT television quotes an unnamed source at the airport of Petrozavodsk, the main city in Karelia, as saying that Khodorkovsky is en route to Saint Petersburg. Khodorkovsky’s mother says she has yet to receive a call from her son confirming he is actually free.
15:30 pm – Russia’s emergency situations ministry says their helicopter in Segezha came to airlift a car crash victim, not Khodorkovsky.
17:00 pm – Russian prison service says Khodorkovsky has departed for Germany, having requested travel documents during his release. The RAPSI legal news agency says he is on his way to Berlin.
18:30 pm – Khodorkovsky’s press centre says he is accompanied by his lawyer Anton Drel.
18:45 pm – German foreign ministry confirms that Khodorkovsky has landed at Berlin airport.