Russian court orders release of Khodorkovksy's business partner

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 23, 2014 4:25 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The ex-business partner of former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky will be released from prison early under a ruling by Russia's Supreme Court on Thursday.

Platon Lebedev and Khodorkovsky were sentenced to jail in 2005 after falling out with Vladimir Putin. The president pardoned Khodorkovsky last month, ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics, but Lebedev did not seek a pardon and stayed in jail.

Lebedev had been due for release in May but the Supreme Court ruled that his sentence should be reduced and that he would be able to walk free on Friday.

It did not change a court order under which Lebedev and Khodorkovsky must pay 17 billion roubles ($521 million) in tax arrears - an obstacle to Khodorkovsky's return to Russia after leaving for Germany in December.

(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Douglas Busvine)