Berlin - German editorialists Saturday cheered freed Kremlin critic and ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's arrival in Berlin after years in jail in Russia but deemed it evidence of President Vladimir Putin's authoritarianism.
“Anyone with even a little appreciation for justice must be glad,” wrote mass circulation Bild newspaper, a day after the lightning release from prison of Russia's former richest man and his surprise flight to Germany.
Die Welt daily noted “it could also have turned out much worse” for Khodorkovsky, whose release and travel to Germany was aided by former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. “One had to fear for his life,” the paper wrote.
But the German press contended that Putin's pardon of his former archrival was not cause for celebration, doubting it heralded a major change of course for the Kremlin's strongman.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung eyed the Winter Olympics that Russia is hosting in Sochi in February as key to the pardon.
And it said the truth behind Putin's claimed humanity in releasing Khodorkovsky, whose mother is seriously ill, was “intimidation, blackmail and manipulation” which were Putin's means for building power.
“Anyone now glad that Russia is on the path to being a constitutional state has understood nothing,” it wrote.
Bild, meanwhile, dubbed Putin's move “pure marketing”, adding it was “no proof that he might have changed into a flawless advocate of the rule of law”.
“On the contrary. In Russia, Putin's word ranks before law and legislation.”
The German papers also mulled the many question marks hanging over Khodorkovsky's future plans, with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung saying it would be easier for Putin to be able to “ignore” the ex-prisoner if he was abroad.
The paper also applauded that Khodorkovsky's mother had received medical treatment in Germany and that Berlin had supported his case.
“Should he want to stay, one should also make that possible for him,” the paper commented.