Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Sunday did not thank Vladimir Putin for his release after more than a decade in jail but also said there was no place for revenge or hatred in his relations with the Russian president.
Speaking to reporters in Berlin barely 36 hours after his sudden release from a prison camp in northwestern Russia, Khodorkovsky stressed that his family was never punished because of what he called a "confrontation" with Putin.
"Since everything was okay with my family and my family was treated in a humane way, I placed the problem of relations [with Putin] in a pragmatic sphere. Pragmatism does not foresee such unpragmatic things like revenge, hatred and so on."
"Well, such are the rules of the game. Yes, I do not like them, I argue that it would be better if the rules were changed. But there's nothing you can do."
"When I was in big business I was aware that I was engaged in tough games," he said in a carefully-worded answer to a question about what he felt towards Putin.
"I should stress that my family had not been touched by this situation. The attitude to my family has always been loyal," said the father of four. "It is what allowed me not to take — let's call this a confrontation — too emotionally."
Khodorkovsky, Russia's one-time richest man, was jailed for financial crimes in separate convictions in 2005 and 2010 in what his supporters say was Putin's revenge for financing the opposition and openly criticizing him.
He was arrested at gun point and snatched off his jet in Siberia in 2003 shortly after Putin warned tycoons against meddling in politics. His Yukos oil company was broken up and sold to the state.
Khodorkovsky told reporters in Berlin he still was not sure what exactly prompted the prosecution of him and his business partners and employees.
"I do not have a verifiable answer to that question, I do not know all the facts," he said.
He recalled a notorious meeting in the Kremlin months before his arrest where he confronted Putin with accusations about the extent of official corruption in Russia.
"On February 19, 2003 there was a meeting with Vladimir Putin where a rather tough conversation took place. It was recorded by television companies and is still available online."
"In two weeks the first criminal case was opened against Yukos employees."
On Thursday, Putin shocked Russia by saying in a seemingly off-the-cuff remark to reporters that he planned to pardon his critic. Barely 24 hours later Khodorkovsky was released and put on a plane to Germany.