Skip to main content

Russian court orders release of former Khodorkovsky aide

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian, CNN
updated 7:40 AM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
Platon Lebedev, right, arrives in a courtroom in Moscow in 2011.
Platon Lebedev, right, arrives in a courtroom in Moscow in 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Defense team says will "use every legal mechanism" to see tax claim dropped
  • Platon Lebedev has sentence reduced
  • Lebedev is latest high-profile prisoner to be freed in Russia
  • Ruling comes after Khodorkovsky was pardoned and released in December

(CNN) -- The former business partner of Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky will be released early from prison under a ruling by Russia's Supreme Court that reduced his sentence, state media reported Thursday.

Platon Lebedev is the latest high-profile prisoner to be freed in Russia as the country prepares to host next month's Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Lebedev was convicted of tax evasion in 2005 and embezzlement and money laundering in 2010, state news agency Ria Novosti said.

It quoted his lawyer as saying he could be released later on Thursday.

Khodorkovsky: I don't know why I'm free

But the court said Lebedev and Khodorkovsky remain liable for 17 billion rubles ($500 million) in unpaid tax bills owed by the now-defuct Yukos oil company, Ria Novosti reported.

Former oil tycoon Khodorkovsky was pardoned and released from a Russian prison in December after spending 10 years in jail following a fraud and tax evasion conviction.

The tax debt is an obstacle to his return to Russia, after leaving for Germany and then Switzerland following his release.

Lebedev and Khodorkovsky's legal team expressed dismay that the tax claim, which it called "absurd," had not been revoked. It said it would "use every legal mechanism" to see it dropped.

"The existence of the claim deprives (Khodorkovsky) from an opportunity to come back to Russia, because as long as the claim stands, the 'iron curtain' can drop in front of him any time. And he cannot afford the luxury of losing his freedom of movement because of his health, family situation and strategic life plans," the team said in a statement.

"Some of the associates and former Yukos employees, who got caught in the wheels of criminal repressions, still remain in jail. And we will do everything it takes to have those unjustly convicted released as soon as possible, and to have all the unjust verdicts overturned," it added.

A new amnesty law introduced by President Vladimir Putin late last year also allowed two members of protest punk rock group Pussy Riot to leave prison two months before the end of their two-year sentences for a performance critical of Putin.

READ: Opinion: Don't be fooled by Putin's release of Khodorkovsky

CNN's Lindsay Isaac contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
British journalist John Cantlie hadn't been seen in nearly two years. Now, he's the latest hostage to be paraded out by ISIS.
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Alibaba's IPO is unlike anything investors have ever seen and could threaten other online retailers. Maggie Lake reports.
updated 8:26 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Indian PM Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country.
updated 3:21 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
The CDC's Rebecca Levine, tasked with tracking the spread of Ebola, shares her experiences in this video diary.
updated 8:01 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
 Tennis Player Li Na attends the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party as guests enjoy Ciroc Vodka presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens on June 19, 2014 in London,
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career.
Jenson Button has some of quickest reactions ever shown at an advanced sports lab.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Creative companies with quirky ideas find new lending models advantageous.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT