Russian court orders Khodorkovsky partner's release

FILE - In this file photo taken on Tuesday, July 26, 2011, jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's business partner Platon Lebedev stands behind bars at a town court in Velsk, north-western Russia. The release from prison of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and two members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot drew worldwide attention to complaints about political prisoners in Russia. Although none of the three were convicted of political crimes, the taint of political vengeance hung strongly on all their cases. Platon Lebedev was a close associate of Khodorkovsky, heading Menatep Group, the holding company that had a controlling interest in Khodorkovsky's oil company Yukos. Lebedev was convicted along with Khodorkovsky during trials in 2005 and 2011. Although Lebedev was far less visible than Khodorkovsky before his arrest in 2003, their close business involvement may have made the Kremlin view him as an enabler of Khodorkovsky's funding of opposition politicians and a tacit supporter of the tycoon's presumed political ambitions. (AP Photo/Velskie Vesti, Gulnara Netesova, file)   | Photo Credit: Gulnara Netesova

Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled to free former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s business partner, Platon Lebedev, three months early, but refused to quash a huge tax penalty that effectively dooms the two men to exile.

The apex court on Thursday ordered Mr Lebedev’s term to be reduced to that already served.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin pardoned Mr Khodorkovsky last month, but Mr Lebedev did not seek a pardon. Their release is seen as an effort to blunt Western criticism of the Kremlin’s record on human rights ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month.

Mr Khodorkovsky was to be released in August and Mr Lebedev in May, after serving more than 10 years in prison. They were both jailed for fraud and tax evasion, but their conviction was largely construed as Mr Putin’s warning to Russian oligarchs to stay out of politics.

The court declined to lift a 17.5-billion rouble ($513 million) tax penalty against Mr Khodorkovsky and Mr Lebedev in contravention of a last year ruling by the European Court, which saw no basis for the fine.

Mr Khodorkovsky, who was put on a plane to Germany after release, said he would not return to Russia till the tax penalty was struck down, because he could be banned from travelling abroad again.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 7:26:02 PM |

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