Mikhail Khodorkovsky applies for visa to visit Switzerland

Mikhail Khodorkovsky at the Wall Museum in Berlin. 22 December 2013
Image caption Mikhail Khodorkovsky has always insisted his conviction was politically motivated

Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has applied for a visa to travel to Switzerland, the Swiss foreign ministry says.

A spokesman said Khodorkovsky submitted his request for a three-month Schengen visa at the Swiss embassy in Berlin.

Khodorkovsky, 50, a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, spent 10 years in a Russian prison for fraud and tax evasion.

He was pardoned and freed on Friday and immediately flew to Germany.

Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Stefan von Below told the Associated Press news agency that the visa request would probably be processed in the coming days.

He declined to give further details.

Schengen visas allow holders to travel to most EU countries without having their passports or other documents checked at the border.

Earlier, Khodorkovsky's spokeswoman, Olga Pispanen, told AFP news agency that he was considering moving to Switzerland where his twin sons go to school.

She said he was due to be reunited with his wife, Inna, and their three children in Berlin on Christmas Eve and he planned to discuss the idea with them.

"He is waiting for the family's arrival. They will sit down and discuss everything," she added.

The former oligarch has 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.

Khodorkovsky had been due to be released next August, but requested a pardon because his mother is suffering from cancer.

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

Two members of punk protest band Pussy Riot - jailed for staging a protest in a Moscow cathedral - have also been freed and on Tuesday, Russian authorities dropped criminal charges against the first of 30 people accused of taking part in a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic.

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

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