On December 20, 2013, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of the richest men in Russia and the former CEO of Russia’s largest oil company (Yukos), was released from prison after 10 years. According to Vladimir Putin, who was internationally criticized for imprisoning Khodorkovsky in 2003, the oil tycoon applied for pardon because his old mother has cancer and needs his support. Immediately after his release, Khodorkovsky fled to Germany and thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her help in securing his release from jail. For the past two years, Merkel had been discussing Khodorkovsky’s release with Putin, and her requests were finally heard this week. Besides being among the wealthiest tycoons before his arrest, Khodorkovsky has also been an influential political figure and a social activist, whose support of the opposition groups always countered Putin’s authority. Many argue that it was Khodorkovsky’s active engagement with Russian politics that led to his arrest, which explains why Khodorkovsky decided to keep away from politics now that he is free.

In 2003, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted of tax evasion, embezzlement, and fraud, and many people were surprised that he was arrested for what other oligarchs easily get away with. However, now it is no longer a secret to anyone that the true reason for the oil tycoon’s imprisonment was his active involvement in Russian politics. During Putin’s first term as president, Khodorkovsky was financing opposition parties and was believed to be planning to run for president in the upcoming elections. It is widely known that Putin is not extremely concerned with overt and secret financial operations performed within the narrow circle of oligarchs, the billionaire tycoons, as long as they support his well-established position as president or do not interfere with politics at all. Putin’s vigorous persecution of Khodorkovsky, as well as the outright demolition of the tycoon’s oil company, Yukos, with a $28-billion tax bill, has been widely criticized by many politicians in and outside of Russia. Many political analysts believe that Putin released Khodorkovsky, as well as the two jailed members of the Pussy Riot and 30 members of the crew of Greenpeace protest ship, in order to avoid criticism before February's Winter Olympics in Sochi and to secure the participation of the democratic western nations in the upcoming games.

During his time in jail, Khodorkovsky has become a respected political analyst, who constantly shared his views on world’s current political events, showed his support for Russia’s youth opposition, and openly criticized Putin for inhibiting Russia’s economic development and for suppressing social justice and freedom of speech. He has also written biographic works, such as Prison’s People and Prison and Freedom, describing his life in jail and the conditions of Russian prisons that are concealed from the public. However, according to Russia’s New Times magazine, Khodorkovsky does not intend to get involved in politics now that he is free. He is in Germany right now, and his mother, who is presented as the official reason for the oligarch’s release, as well as his father, joined him there this Saturday.