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The Diplomat Behind Khodorkovsky's Release



BERLIN – In a surprise amnesty on Friday, Russia's formerly richest man Mikhail Khodorkovsky was released  from prison after serving a ten year sentence. After the release Khodorkovsky flew to Berlin, where he thanked for the clandestine diplomacy carried out by somebody nobody had expected – the 86-year-old former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who had met Putin twice in order to negotiate his release over the last two years. 

Khodorkovsky's release comes amid a wave of similar amnesties, including the release of the members of the controversial punk band Pussy Riot and Greenpeace activists.  Prior to Khodorkovsky's amnesty, the Russian parliament signed a decree that would see some 20.000 other political prisoners freed; possibly marking a turning point for Russia.    

Genscher is a legendary figure – inspiring even a comic book hero called "Genschman". 25 years ago Hans-Dietrich Genscher was the main figure for the fall of the Berlin Wall: he saved Gorbachev's reforms and disarmament policy by refusing new nuclear missiles in Germany against extreme pressure from chancellor Kohl, George Bush and Margaret Thatcher. His secret diplomacy helped free the refugees in the Prague embassy, which was the igniting moment of the German revolution in 1989. The trains with the 5000 refugees set the country emotionally on fire and the "Monday demonstrations" exploded – from Genscher's speech on September 30 from the balcony of the embassy until October 9  in Leipzig the number of demonstrators grew to 100.000. Thanks to the people and Gorbachev's order not to allow any violence, not a single  shot was fired and a peaceful revolution brought an end to the cold war.

Professor Daditschew, former foreign policy adviser to Brezhnev, Gromyko and Gorbachev said to Cinema for Peace Chairman Jaka Bizilj recently in Moscow that "without Genscher there would have been no German reunification" and no peaceful fall of the Iron Curtain. Genscher's efforts can be described as a masterpiece of diplomacy, while putting his own life at stake. A deciding moment was the night of September 11 to 12 in 1990 in Moscow, when the 2+4-reunification contract was cancelled by the Soviet Union after Margaret Thatcher demanded future  troop maneuvers in East Germany. Genscher, suffering from a nearly lethal heart condition, insisted to get everybody immediately out of their beds in order  to save his lifetime vision of reunification, having his own home in Halle in East Germany, from where he had fled in 1952.  James Baker was woken up at one o'clock in the morning and welcomed Genscher with Condoleezza Rice, Zoellick and others in pyjamas in order to discuss and withdraw Thatcher's demands, and a few hours later the contract for the German reunification would be signed between the four Allies and the two German states – formally concluding peace after WWII and giving Germany its sovereignty back.

Cinema for Peace has honored Hans-Dietrich Genscher on the 20th anniversary of the independence of Slovenia with Danis Tanovic's Oscar-winning war satire "No Man's Land" and a state dinner, as he was the first leading politician to support their democratic rights to become an independent country through a referendum. He travelled to protect this little country when it was attacked by the Yugoslav national army, which marked the beginning of the war in Yugoslavia. In Germany Cinema for Peace will honor Hans-Dietrich Genscher in Berlin in November in conjunction with a film screening about the victims, who were shot at the Wall, to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall and to promote the vision of  "How to End All Wars". 

Genscher was also in charge of  the hostage drama in Munich 1972 and offered his life in exchange for the Jewish hostages, noting that no Jews should die in Germany anymore. He detested  violence since being a soldier himself: "With 15 years of age I was sent to war, and suddenly I stood eye to eye with a Russian soldier with our guns pointing at each other. We were told to be enemies, but we were no enemies and we did not shoot at each other. We are European friends – in unity, justice and freedom."

We invite you to watch also the following trailers:
  • KHODORKOVSKY by Cyril Tuschi. Khodorkovsky, the richest Russian, challenges President Putin. A fight of the titans begins. Putin warns him. But Khodorkovsky comes back to Russia knowing that he will be imprisoned, once he returns. Why didn't he stay in exile with a couple of billions? Why did he do that? A personal journey to Khodorkovsky.
  • MR. BUNDESREPUBLIK by Regina Ziegler demonstrates that Genscher’ name is associated not only with the great political career. When he left the German cabinet in 1992 he had been a minister for 23 years: four years as Minister of the Interior and 18 years as Foreign Minister. In international politics his name represents the epoch when the Cold War came to an end and Europe came to have no more fear of a united Germany.
  • THIRTEEN DAYS by Roger Donaldson is a dramatization of President Kennedy's administration's struggle to contain the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962, covering also the secret negotiation between Presidents Kennedy and Khrushchev.

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