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Putin To Pardon Jailed Tycoon Khodorkovsky
Russian president Vladimir Putin has said he will pardon jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The former head of Yukos Oil was arrested in 2003 and imprisoned for nine years after being convicted of fraud.
In 2010 he was put on trial again, while still serving his original sentence, and found guilty of money laundering and embezzlement. He and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, were jailed for another seven years.
Both trials have been criticised and Khodorkovsky has often been described by human rights groups as a prisoner of conscience.
Mr Putin's opponents have accused him of having the tycoon jailed to prevent him going into politics.
At his annual end-of-year news conference, Mr Putin said Khodorkovsky had asked him for a pardon.
He said: "He has been in jail already more than 10 years, this is a serious punishment.
"He cites humanitarian reasons. His mother is ill. I decided that with these circumstances in mind, it is necessary to take a decision, and in the near future a decree pardoning him will be signed."
However, Khodorkovsky's main lawyer, Vadim Klyuvgant, denied that his client had requested a pardon.
Khodorkovsky, 50, grew rich during the 1990s in the economic chaos following the fall of the Soviet Union and rose to political prominence as one of the so-called "oligarchs" who surrounded president Boris Yeltsin.
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