Putin says he’ll pardon oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky

(JTA) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said he will pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oil tycoon who has been jailed for more than 10 years.

Putin made the announcement at the end of a four-hour news conference in Moscow, saying Khodorkovsky requested the pardon on humanitarian grounds, since his mother is ill.

“I think that a decision can be made and the decree on the pardon will be signed in the nearest time,” Putin said.

Khodorkovsky, formerly the head of the Yukos oil company, was arrested and jailed in 2003 and sentenced to nine years in prison. The prison term was extended to August 2014 after he was found guilty in a new trial of money laundering and oil theft.

Putin was the nation’s president during the first trial. Khodorkovsky, a major opponent of the Kremlin, reportedly had plans to run for the presidency.

Khodorkovsky, who is Jewish, was formerly the richest man in Russia. His attorneys were not aware of a pardon request.

A statement on Khodorkovsky’s website said, “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 ten years of imprisonment.”

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the RT English-language Russian news service that the letter Putin recently received requesting a pardon was signed by Khodorkovsky personally and that by filing a request for a pardon, Khodorkovsky is admitting his guilt.