Platon Lebedev, the former business partner of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, with whom he was jailed in 2005, will be released, Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered.
Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky were convicted of tax evasion and theft after funding opposition parties and falling out with President Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin pardoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky last month, but Platon Lebedev, who was due for release in May, did not seek a pardon and stayed in jail.
The Russian Supreme Court ruled that his sentence should be reduced and that he would be able to walk free on Friday.
“Release Lebedev,” Supreme Court Judge Pyotr Serkov declared in the ruling, after reducing his sentence so that it amounted to time served.
Platon Lebedev and his former business partner Mikhail Khodorkovsky were jailed in 2005
Both men’s convictions remain in place, despite repeated appeals.
It did not change a court order under which Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky must pay 17 billion roubles ($500 million) in tax arrears.
That debt is an obstacle to Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s return to Russia after leaving for Germany in December.
The releases are believed by many to be part of a drive to improve Russia’s international image ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics next month.
Other prominent inmates freed in the past few weeks included two women from the Pussy Riot protest group, jailed over the performance of a “punk prayer” critical of Vladimir Putin in a Russian Orthodox church.
Platon Lebedev used to head NFO Menatep, while Mikhail Khodorkovsky ran oil giant Yukos and was once Russia’s richest man.
President Vladimir Putin has announced he will soon pardon jailed former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The Russian president said he had received a request from Mikhail Khodorkovsky – in custody for a decade – to pardon him on humanitarian grounds as his mother is ill.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s representatives said they needed to meet him before commenting but that the family would be “elated to see him finally freed”.
On Wednesday, MPs backed a wide-ranging amnesty for at least 20,000 prisoners.
Speaking to reporters after his annual news conference in Moscow on Thursday, Vladimir Putin confirmed the amnesty would apply to the two members of punk band Pussy Riot still in prison and Greenpeace activists detained for their protest at a Russian oil rig in the Arctic.
Analysts say Vladimir Putin may be trying to ease international criticism of Russia’s human rights record ahead of February’s Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, 50, and fellow defendant Platon Lebedev were convicted of stealing oil and laundering money in 2010. They were already serving time for tax evasion.
As head of the now defunct oil giant Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man.
President Vladimir Putin has announced he will soon pardon jailed former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Vladimir Putin said he had not received a request from Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the past.
“And then quite recently he wrote such a document and addressed a request for a pardon to me,” Vladimir Putin said.
“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.
“I think given the circumstances we can take the decision and very soon the decree to pardon him will be signed,” Vladimir Putin said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP news agency the request had been personally “signed” by Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s mother, Marina, said she did not know about any clemency request by her son.
“I spoke to Mikhail last Saturday for about three minutes, but we did not discuss this. He only asked about my health,” she said.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky is currently scheduled to leave jail next August. His supporters have long argued he is a political prisoner.
A statement from his press centre reads: “Until his legal team can meet with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, it cannot be commented on whether a request on a pardon was made, by whom and for what reasons.
“All of his family and supporters would of course be elated to see him finally free after 10 years of imprisonment.”
The amnesty passed in the State Duma on Wednesday covers at least 20,000 prisoners, including minors, disabled people, veterans, pregnant women and mothers.