Steven Lee Myers
Presiednt Vladimir V Putin Thursday said Russias most famous prisoner,Mikhail B Khodorkovsky,the former chief executive of Yukos Oil,could soon be freed. Khodorkovskys arrest 10 years ago punctuated an authoritarian turn in Russias recent history.
Putin told reporters in Moscow Khodorkovsky had appealed for clemency on humanitarian grounds,citing his mothers declining health,and that he would soon make a decision to grant him a pardon.
He has already spent more than 10 years in confinement this is a serious punishment, Putin said of Khodorkovsky,who before his imprisonment had backed an opposition political movement.
Putins remarks,made after a marathon news conference in which he did not address the issue,were unexpected. Earlier this week there were reports that Khodorkovsky and his partner,Platon Lebedev,would be tried for a third time before their current sentences end in 2014.
Even Khodorkovskys lawyers were taken by surprise. His representatives in Moscow posted a statement saying any discussion of his making an appeal for clemency was not legitimate until his lawyers had a chance to meet him.
Putin,who commands singular political authority here,said he would consider the humanitarian character of Khodorkovsys appeal for clemency. His mother is ill,and I think that a decision can be taken,and in the near future a decree on his clemency will be signed, he said.
Another of Russias most famous wealthy businessmen,Mikhail Prokhorov,who ran against Putin for president in 2012,issued a statement praising the decision.
In the presidential campaign,I emphasized that,as president,my first decision would be to have mercy on Michael, Prokhorov said in a statement. Something has happened that should have happened several years ago. Im happy for Michael and his family.