Khodorkovsky says cannot currently return to Russia

Khodorkovsky says cannot currently return to Russia
Russian former oil tycoon Khodorkovsky in defendants' cage before court session in Moscow, December 28, 2010

MOSCOW - Russia's freed former tycoon and richest man Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Sunday said he was currently unable to return to Russia due to a court order to pay over half a billion dollars dating back to his first conviction in 2005.

Khodorkovsky said that the court order for him to pay US$550 million in damages was still in place. If he went back to Russia, "Russian law has the power of not allowing me to leave for abroad," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying in Berlin.

He said the case is currently in the hands of Russia's Supreme Court and if the claim was ever lifted he would consider that a "sufficient sign that I can come to Russia".

"The issue of politics - understanding politics as a fight for power - is also not the agenda for me," he added.

Khodorkovsky had said earlier in an interview with the New Times weekly that he believed the Russian authorities wanted him to stay out of the country.

"Our authorities can honestly say that they did not send me into exile and that I asked for it," he said.

"But knowing our realities, we can absolutely precisely understand that they wanted me out of the country," he told the weekly in an interview published on Sunday.

He acknowledged his lightning-quick exit Friday that came after more than 10 years in prison, and was negotiated by former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, was stage-managed.

"If someone wanted to make a movie about the 1970s and the deportation of a dissident you could not have done it better," he told the magazine for which he wrote a column from prison.

He indicated in the New Times interview that it was Putin who wanted him out.

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