Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil magnate and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has applied for a Schengen visa at the Swiss embassy in Berlin on Tuesday, the Swiss foreign ministry said.

Khodorkovsky, who has close business ties with Switzerland, has been staying in Berlin since Putin's surprise decision last week to free him after a decade in prison on fraud and tax evasion charges.

Khodorkovsky submitted the request for a three-month visa at the Swiss Embassy in Berlin, officials said.

"He made a request for a visa, which will be studied," Jean-Marc Crevoisier, a Swiss foreign ministry spokesman, told Reuters news agency, speaking from the capital Berne. "One could imagine that he intends to come to Switzerland."

Officials said that the Swiss visa request was an indication of where the 50-year-old planned to settle.

“He wants to travel to Switzerland early in the new year to see the place where his sons go to school,'' Christian Hanne, another foregin ministry official, told The Associated Press. "But there is no decision yet about a permanent home.''

'Not returning to bussiness'

Germany is a part of the visa-free Schengen zone, which includes a majority of European Union member states and several countries outside the bloc including Switzerland.

Khodorkovsky recently dismissed suggestions that he might want to return to business, saying instead he wanted to devote his life to helping political prisoners in Russia.

"My financial situation does not require me to work just to earn some more money," he told reporters in Berlin on Sunday.

Khodorkovsky's second wife Inna has a home in Geneva, where several of his companies had operations, the Swiss daily Le Matin said on Tuesday, quoting the Russian state-run radio Voice of Russia.

Khodorkovsky on Tuesday also welcomed the release of the remaining two members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot. He was released through the same amnesty bill signed by Putin.

Source: Agencies