(Updates with Putin’s quote in second paragraph.)
Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he may pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky following March presidential elections if the former Yukos Oil Co. chief petitions for early release.
“I’ll consider a petition if he writes this request, but first it’s necessary to become president,” Putin told reporters in Moscow today. “The law is such that a person serving a prison sentence and convicted by a court verdict must write a petition for pardon and admit his guilt, something Khodorkovsky hasn’t yet done.”
The jailed billionaire was Russia’s richest man when he was arrested at gunpoint on the tarmac of a Siberian airport in October 2003. Khodorkovsky, who denies any guilt, says he was targeted by then-President Putin for financing opposition parties.
Khodorkovsky was later sentenced to 13 years in prison after two separate convictions for fraud, tax evasion and oil embezzlement, while Yukos was dismantled and sold at auction to cover more than $30 billion in back taxes.
--Editor: Paul Abelsky
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