MOSCOW (AP) — The Moscow City Court on Thursday reduced the prison sentences of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner by two years, which means they will be released in 2014.
Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were arrested in 2003 and convicted in 2005 of evading taxes on the Yukos oil company. The case was widely seen as politically motivated after Khodorkovsky, then Russia's richest man, challenged the power of Vladimir Putin early in his presidency.
After Khodorkovsky's arrest, Yukos was broken up and sold off at a heavy discount. Most of what was once Russia's largest oil company ended up in the hands of state-owned Rosneft. The two were tried together again in a second case and convicted in 2010 of stealing oil from Yukos and laundering the proceeds.
The Moscow City Court said its decision to reduce their prison sentence from 13 to 11 years was based on a change in Russian laws on economic crimes. Putin on Thursday denied the case against Khodorkovsky was driven by politics or personal revenge.
"There has been no personal prosecution," Putin said during his annual news conference. "I remember very well how this case developed. Everyone tries to present it as a political case, but what, was Mikhail Borisovich (Khodorkovsky) involved in politics, was he a member of parliament?"