Switzerland grants visa to Russia's Khodorkovsky

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

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 long had business ties there.

Christian Hanne, a spokesman for Khodorkovsky, said in an emailed response to questions about the 50-year-old's plans that he intends to travel to Switzerland in early January, and that he has made no decision yet about where he will settle in the long term. For now, he is still in Berlin.

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.