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Russian Oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky Walks Free

After 10 years behind bars, Russia's once-richest man and most famous prisoner walked free Friday afternoon after Vladimir Putin announced shock plans to pardon him. Update: Khodorkovsky has left Russia for Germany.

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Putin unexpectedly announced on Thursday that he planned to pardon Khodorkovsky. The move is seen as an attempt to sanitize Russia's image ahead of February's Sochi Olympics.

Sergi L. Loiko/Los Angeles Times / MCT

Khodorkovsky was formerly the country’s richest man, and Putin said that as his mother is ill and because he had cited humanitarian issues in his plea to be pardoned, Putin said, “I believe that, taking all these circumstances into account, a corresponding decision can be taken, and a decree pardoning him can be signed in the near future."

He released this statement in Russian:

Dear friends,

On Nov. 12, I asked the president of Russia with a request for a pardon for family reasons and am glad for the positive decision.

The question of recognizing guilt was not raised.

I want to thank everyone who for all these years followed the Yukos case and for the support that you gave me, my family and everyone who was unjustly imprisoned and continue to be investigated. I can't wait for the moment when I can hug those close to me and personally shake the hands of all my friends and colleagues."

Translated by Miriam Elder.

Cate Sevilla is the UK managing editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Miriam Elder is the world editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 5B5F EC17 C20B C11F 226D 3EBE 6205 F92F AC14 DCB1

Contact Miriam Elder at

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