Switzerland grants visa to Russia's Khodorkovsky

AP News
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Posted: Dec 30, 2013 10:23 AM

BERLIN (AP) — Switzerland has granted former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky a visa, the Swiss Embassy in Berlin said Monday.

Khodorkovsky applied for a three-month visa shortly after his Dec. 20 arrival in Berlin, following his pardon by Russian President Vladimir Putin and release from decade-long imprisonment.

Embassy spokeswoman Alexandra Baumann said the application has now been approved. It allows him to travel freely within the 26-nation Schengen area, which includes Switzerland and most of the European Union but not Britain.

The German government gave Khodorkovsky a one-year visa for Germany following his release.

Khodorkovsky's sons go to school in Switzerland, and he has business ties there.

Christian Hanne, a spokesman for Khodorkovsky, said last week that the 50-year-old wants to travel to Switzerland early in the new year to see where his sons go to school, but said there had been no decision on where he will settle.

Russia's pardon of Khodorkovsky, along with an amnesty that brought the release of the remaining members of punk band Pussy Riot and of Greenpeace activists detained since September, has been widely seen as part of an attempt to soothe criticism of the country's human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.

Khodorkovsky has business ties to Switzerland stretching back to his days as head of the Yukos oil company. When Khodorkovsky was prosecuted for tax evasion and money-laundering, Russian officials sought to seize about $5 billion linked to Yukos that had been deposited in Switzerland.

But Swiss authorities refused to hand over the money after concluding that the prosecution of Khodorkovsky was politically motivated. It's unclear how much of the money belonged directly to Khodorkovsky, and whether he has access to it.