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.
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.
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