Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Friday pardoning former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of Russia’s most famous prisoners, RIA Novosti reports.
The Kremlin said that the pardon for Khodorkovsky had been granted on humanitarian grounds, and would come into force straightaway.
Khodorkovsky’s lawyers, who appeared to be stunned by the news of the decision when it was announced by Putin on Thursday, confirmed that their client could walk free Friday.
“Such a decree should be carried out immediately,” said lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant.
Russian prison authorities said in a statement that the decree meant Khodorkovsky was free from further prison punishment. A prison service spokesman said that Khodorkovsky could leave incarceration as early as Friday.
Putin announced the decision to release Khodorkovsky while speaking with journalists after finishing a marathon press conference, despite having answered another question directly related to the case during the four-hour Q&A.