20 Dec 2013

Putin to pardon political enemy

5:46 pm on 20 December 2013

President Vladimir Putin of Russia says he intends to pardon one of his biggest political enemies, former businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has been in prison for more than 10 years.

Mr Putin said on Thursday he had received a request from Khodorkovsky to pardon him on humanitarian grounds as his mother is ill.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky in court in Moscow in May 2011.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky in court in Moscow in May 2011. Photo: AFP

However, lawyers for the former oil tycoon deny he has asked to be pardoned.

Khodorkovsky, 50, and Platon Lebedev were convicted of stealing oil and laundering money in 2010. They were already in prison for tax evasion, the BBC reports.

"He has already been in detention more than 10 years, this is a serious punishment and he is referring to humanitarian circumstances as his mother is ill,'' Mr Putin said.

"I think given the circumstances we can take the decision and very soon the decree to pardon him will be signed."

As head of the Yukos, which is now defunct, Khodorkovsky was once Russia's richest man. He is currently scheduled to leave prison in August 2014.

On Wednesday, a wide-ranging amnesty for at least 20,000 prisoners was passed by the Duma at Mr Putin's behest.

Analysts say he may be trying to ease international criticism of Russia's human rights record ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.