Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he will in the nearest future pardon jailed former Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, RIA Novosti reports.
Putin said Khodorkovsky appealed for clemency in a letter.
“Khodorkovsky cites humanitarian reasons,” Putin told reporters after the end of his marathon four-hour press conference in Moscow.
“A far as Khodorkovsky is concerned, I have already spoken about this, Mikhail Borisovich should in line with the law have written the necessary document, which he didn’t do, but just recently he wrote this document and addressed me with an appeal for clemency,” he said.
Putin said Khodorkovsky had already spent 10 years in jail for a serious crime and that citing humanitarian concerns, notably the businessman’s sick mother, he would sign off on the pardon in the nearest time.
“The order for the pardon will be issued and the person will be freed,” he said.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the appeal for clemency had been received only a short time previously.
Khodorkovsky’s legal team appeared confused by what appears to have come as a fully unexpected development.
“He never filed [an appeal for pardon], and we haven’t had any recent information about anyone appealing on his behalf. We don’t have this information, although we’ve received a number of pardon appeals on his behalf of other people over the years,” said Vadim Klyuvgant, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky.
Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov said on his Twitter that he was happy to hear the news.
“The pardoning on Khodorkovsky is something that should have happened several years ago. I am happy for Mikhail and his family,” he wrote.
Former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin described the event as “decisive.”
Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were jailed in 2005 and saw their sentences extended until August 2014 and May 2014, respectively, following a second trial on related charges in 2010.
Khodorkovsky, 50, was due for release next year after spending more than 10 years in jail since his arrest in 2003 and two convictions on fraud, tax evasion and oil embezzlement.