"I ask you to regard me as a symbol that when civil society wants to accomplish something, its efforts are capable of bringing about the release of even those people that nobody ever imagined could be released." - Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was released by presidential pardon on the 20th of December, 2013. In total, he served 3,709 days in prison while going through two separate show trials.

Khodorkovsky issued a brief statement upon his release.

“The issue of admission of guilt was not raised,” Khodorkovsky stated, “I would like to thank everyone who has been following the Yukos case all these years for the support you provided to me, my family and all those who were unjustly convicted and continue to be persecuted. I am very much looking forward to the minute when I will be able to hug my close ones and personally shake hands with all my friends and associates. I am constantly thinking of those who continue to remain imprisoned.”

The former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience flew directly to Berlin after the release, where he was greeted by the former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dieter Genscher, who had assisted in negotiating the pardon. A few days later, he gave a press conference at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin, which was attended by more than a hundred international media.

“You should not regard me as a symbol that there aren’t any political prisoners left in Russia any more,” Khodorkovsky said during the Berlin press conference. “I ask you to regard me as a symbol that when civil society wants to accomplish something, its efforts are capable of bringing about the release of even those people that nobody ever imagined could be released. We just need to continue to work towards the goal of ensuring that no political prisoners remain in Russia, and indeed in other country in the world either. At any rate, I fully intend to do everything I can towards achieving this goal.”

Khodorkovsky’s release was warmly welcomed by numerous international observers, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, among others.

After spending several months privately focusing on family, Khodorkovsky returned to the public eye when the conflict between Russia and Ukraine began to reach a dangerous threshold. On March 3, 2014 he issued a statement pleading for peace and dialogue, declaring his willingness to travel to any part of Ukraine to act as a mediator. By March 9, he had arrived to Ukraine and delivered a speech at Maidan before a crowd of thousands, where he spoke about the horrors of the violence that took place in Kiev with the consent of the Russian authorities.

“I want you to know that there is another Russia,” he said during the Maidan speech. “There are people there who, during those days, took to the streets to participate in anti-war rallies. They did so despite arrests and many years that they will have to spend in prison. There are people there who value the friendship between the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia over their personal freedom.”

Khodorkovsky again returned to Ukraine on April 24-25, where he organised along with other public intellectuals like Lyudmila Ulitskaya and Yuriy Lutsenko the “Ukraine-Russia: the Dailogue” forum, while also traveling on a fact-finding mission to the conflict areas of Kharkov and Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.

Among many travels, Khodorkovsky has delivered numerous keynote speeches, including at the Ukraine Dialogue, the Kiev Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Zurich.

Since his release, Khodorkovsky has received several distinguished honors, including the Lech Walesa Award (which was originally given to him before his release) as well as the “Man of the Year” award from Gazeta Wyborcza. His book, My Fellow Prisoners, has now been translated and published in numerous languages, greeted by outstanding critical reception.

On the 20th of September 2014, Khodorkovsky re-opened his civil society movement Open Russia with a live event in Berlin and an online forum attended by thousands from across the world.