Pussy Rioter urges: Khodorkovsky 4 prez
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Pussy Rioter urges: Khodorkovsky 4 prez

‘He is an incredible human being,’ says Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, ‘who was put through a more severe prison experience than we had’

Russian punk band Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right, and Maria Alekhina smile during their news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were granted amnesty on Monday, Dec. 23, two months short of their scheduled release after spending nearly two years in prison for their protest at Moscow's main cathedral. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Russian punk band Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right, and Maria Alekhina smile during their news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were granted amnesty on Monday, Dec. 23, two months short of their scheduled release after spending nearly two years in prison for their protest at Moscow's main cathedral. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Days after his release from prison, Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky received an interesting job suggestion: president of Russia.

It pays a little less than what the is used to earning, but has its perks — especially for someone who just got out of prison thanks to a presidential pardon.

Of course, Khodorkovsky, who is of Jewish background, would first need to be elected. But he would certainly have the vote of one the members of the punk protest band Pussy Riot.

Asked during a television interview whom she would like to see replace President Vladimir Putin, Pussy Rioter and fellow former prisoner Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said: “I’d like to offer Mikhail Borisovich [Khodorkovsky] the job.”

“He is important to us as a strong person, an incredible human being put through a more severe prison experience than we had,” Tolokonnikova said, during the December 27 interview for the Dozhd television channel.

Like Khodorkovsky, Tolokonnikova was released from prison after receiving a pardon from their common nemesis, Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin implied to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that a jailed member of the punk band Pussy Riot was anti-Semitic. (Photo credit: Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service/RIA-Novosti/AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo credit: Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service/RIA-Novosti/AP)

Khodorkovsky has indicated, however, that he is not likely to pursue presidential politics. “The question of politics for me doesn’t exist,” he said at a press conference held at Checkpoint Charlie, the iconic former border crossing that became a symbol of the division of Cold War Berlin. “I’m not interested in a fight for power.”

Khodorkovsky, an oil tycoon, had been convicted of embezzlement and tax evasion after voicing criticism of Putin. Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. But the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the case against him was not politically motivated, though it did criticize his trial and sentence as unfair.

Pussy Riot members were convicted of hooliganism following an unauthorized “punk prayer” concert against Putin in a Moscow cathedral, and the two-year prison sentences they received were widely criticized as overly harsh.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky (photo credit: CC-BY-PressCenter of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, Wikimedia Commons)
Mikhail Khodorkovsky (photo credit: CC-BY-PressCenter of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, Wikimedia Commons)

Khodorkovsky is now in Switzerland, where he just received a three-month visa. He told various media that he does not want to live in Russia.

He has, however, expressed determination to work to help Russian political prisoners, and he and Pussy Riot members have exchanged open letters of support following their respective releases.

Elsewhere in Russia, another high-profile Jewish prisoner is getting ready to leave his cell thanks to Putin. Ilya Farber, a village teacher convicted of taking bribes, is expected to be released in the coming days, pending a judge’s decision to cut his sentence from seven years to three.

The decision follows a campaign by Jewish groups and Farber’s family, who said that his sentence was extreme and that his trial was marred by anti-Semitism.

But the prosecution and the judge decided to set Farber free only after Putin said in an offhand comment during a television interview that he found the sentence “egregious.”

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