Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has applied for a visa to Switzerland, according to the Swiss foreign ministry. The move comes just five days after he walked free from a Russian prison.
Khodorkovsky traveled immediately to Berlin after his release on Friday, and is reportedly staying in a luxury suite at the Adlon Hotel. Should he prove successful in his application for a three-month Schengen visa to Switzerland, Khodorkovsky would be brought closer to his twin sons, who attend school there.
"Khodorkovsky filed this request at the Swiss embassy in Berlin," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The visa he has applied for would allow Khordokovsky to travel freely within the border-free Schengen area, which includes Switzerland and most European Union countries.
Khodorkovsky and his family were expected to be reunited some time on Christmas Eve in Germany, his spokeswoman Olga Pispanen told news agency AFP. On Saturday,he had met parents Marina and Boris and his eldest son Pavel,
his child from another marriage.
"They have not been together for 10 years,“ Pispanen said to AFP of Khodorkovsky's wife Inna and their three children. "He is waiting for the family's arrival. They will sit down and discuss everything.“
Formerly Russia's wealthiest man, Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 on charges of fraud. A vocal critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Khodorkovsky was found guilty of separate financial charges in 2005 and 2010 and was not due for release until August 2014.
Others get amnesty relief
Khodorkovsky was not the only high-profile prisoner freedcourtesy of a recent amnesty granted by Putin.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova - members of the political punk band Pussy Riot -were also granted their freedom
and were released on Monday.
The duo were jailed in 2012 after staging a protest against Putin via a song performed in an Orthodox cathedral, and Khodorovsky congratulated them on their freedom, which came several months before their sentences were due to finish.
"I am happy to learn that the torture unworthy of a European country in the 21st century has come to an end," Khodorkovsky said.
"The release of political prisoners makes the authorities at least a little bit more humane.”
On Tuesday, one member of the ‘Arctic 30' - the Greenpeace crew arrested in September for their protest at a Russian oil rig - was also granted amnesty, from hooliganism charges, with news agencies predicting more will follow.
"They will be free to leave Russia once they get the right stamps in their passports from the migration service," Greenpeace International spokesman Aaron Gray-Block said.
ph/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)