WARSAW (Reuters) - The jailed Russian former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been awarded the annual Lech Walesa prize, named after the Polish Nobel laureate who helped overthrow Communist rule.
The Walesa Institute decided to give Khodorkovsy the prize, because he has “inscribed on the banner of his public life values such as economy freedom, civic values and social justice”, Walesa said in the statement.
Khodorkovsky, the former head of oil company Yukos, has been convicted of money-laundering, tax evasion and fraud. Supporters say he was jailed as punishment for challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin, an allegation the Kremlin denies.
Relations between Russia and Poland are often fraught. The Russian Foreign Ministry declined immediate comment on the award.
Walesa is to present it to Khodorkovsky’s son Pavel on Sunday in the Polish port of Gdansk, the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, which under Walesa helped overturn Communist rule in Poland in the 1980s.
Among previous winners of the Walesa prize are Belarussian opposition leader Ales Beliatski and former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Christian Lowe and Alison Williams