Putin says he plans to pardon jailed tycoon

Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on December 19, 2013.

Story highlights

  • Putin tells reporters about plans for a pardon
  • This comes as lawmakers back an amnesty law
  • The oil magnate has been in jail since 2003
  • Russia has been criticized for its treatment of Khodorkovsky

Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to pardon jailed oligarch and Kremlin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, he said Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after a news conference, Putin said Khodorkovsky had written a letter appealing for a pardon, citing humanitarian factors.

The announcement came a day after Russian lawmakers backed a sweeping amnesty law and as the nation's human rights issues are in the spotlight as the country prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

The amnesty, to mark the anniversary of the adoption in 1993 of Russia's post-Communist constitution, will be applied to thousands of Russian prisoners, the state-run RIA Novosti reported.

"We have several dozens of amnesties recently," Putin told reporters. As for Khodorkovsky, Putin said that he has been imprisoned for more than 10 years, which he called a "serious punishment."

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"His mother is ill, and I think, taking into consideration all these circumstances, one can take an appropriate decision," Putin said. "And a decree will be signed shortly after pardoning him."

Khodorkovsky's son told CNN Thursday that he was not able to substantiate Kremlin assertions that there is a planned pardon for his father. During a telephone interview, Pavel Khodorkovsky said he had yet to talk to his father or his father's attorneys.

    "With Putin things are always personal," he said. "I would be surprised if Putin were playing politics."

    His father, an oil magnate who backed an opposition party, has been in prison since 2003 and was convicted in 2005 of tax evasion and fraud.

    Russia has faced international criticism for its treatment of Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, with countries including the United States accusing it of selective prosecution and abuse of the legal system.

    He has said his prosecution was part of a Kremlin campaign to destroy him and take control of the company he built from privatization deals of the 1990s.