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Jailed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky waves as he stands in the defendants' cage before the start of a court session in Moscow in this December 27, 2010 file photograph. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Friday pardoning Mr. Khodorkovsky, the Kremlin said. Putin announced unexpectedly on Thursday that he would pardon Mr. Khodorkovsky, who was once Russia's richest man and is seen by Kremlin critics as a political prisoner.
Jailed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky waves as he stands in the defendants' cage before the start of a court session in Moscow in this December 27, 2010 file photograph. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Friday pardoning Mr. Khodorkovsky, the Kremlin said. Putin announced unexpectedly on Thursday that he would pardon Mr. Khodorkovsky, who was once Russia's richest man and is seen by Kremlin critics as a political prisoner.
(Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)

Freed Russian oligarch leaves a wrecked country behind

After 10 years in a Russian prison, Mikhail Khodorkovsky walks free with an official pardon, but the former tycoon will find Russia little changed in fundamental terms from the oily post-Soviet republic it was in 2003: A resource-cursed economy in which a venal and often corrupt elite in Moscow rule over a largely impoverished and dwindling population in a vast and remote hinterland.