Khodorkovsky thanks Merkel for help securing release

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Media captionMikhail Khodorkovsky has vowed to help other political prisoners following his release from jail

Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her help in securing his release from jail.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, he also thanked supporters and the media for their campaign.

Khodorkovsky was freed on Friday, after spending 10 years in a Russian prison for fraud and tax evasion.

He always insisted that his conviction was politically motivated.

At the time of his arrest he was Russia's richest man and he used some of his wealth to fund opposition parties.

He became the country's best-known political prisoner.

'Stage-managed' exit

Earlier Khodorkovsky told Russia's New Times magazine that he did not intend to get involved in politics now he is free.

He also said he would not fight for the return of assets from his disbanded oil company, Yukos.

He acknowledged that his departure from Russia was stage-managed.

"If someone wanted to make a movie about the 1970s and a deportation of a dissident you could not have done it better."

He said that while he had not been forced to leave Russia, "we can absolutely clearly understand that they suggested I leave the country."

He has now been reunited with his son and his parents, and said he would not return to his homeland until he was certain he could leave again at any time for family reasons.

Khodorkovsky had been in prison since 2003 and was due to be released next August, but requested a pardon because his mother is suffering from cancer.

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Media captionPavel Khodorkovsky, son of Mikhail (pictured here): "My family is finally reunited"

President Vladimir Putin surprised Russians last week by agreeing to the pardon.

In a statement after his release on Friday, Khodorkovsky stressed he had not admitted guilt and made reference to those who have been "unjustly convicted and continue to be persecuted".

Khodorkovsky left the penal colony where he was being held, in the Karelia region of north-western Russia close to the Finnish border, early on Friday afternoon.

On his release, he was given a passport and the necessary documents to allow him to fly from St Petersburg to Berlin.

The pardon for Khodorkovsky came after Russian MPs backed a wide-ranging amnesty for at least 20,000 prisoners.

Mr Putin confirmed it would apply to the two members of punk band Pussy Riot still in prison and Greenpeace activists detained for their protest at a Russian oil rig in the Arctic.

Analysts say Mr Putin may be trying to ease international criticism of Russia's human rights record ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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