Dec. 20 - Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to pardon one-time political foe and oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in a surprise act of mercy. Julie Noce reports.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to pardon former political opponent and oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Putin made the surprise announcement during a news conference Thursday saying Khodorkovsky had asked for a pardon in a written letter because his mother was ill.
Khodorkovsky was jailed in 2003 on tax evasion and fraud charges. His imprisonment became a symbol for what critics say is the Kremlin's abuse of the courts for political ends.
Political analyst say the move was Putin's attempt to silence his critics in the West- and just in time too as Russia is set to host the Winter Olympics in 2014.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) POLITICAL ANALYST MARIA LIPMAN, SAYING:
"At a time when he is referred to as bad, as an evil leader, as a leader of Russia which is launching a campaign of expansion, a leader who is near imperialistic, he suddenly attracts the whole world to himself as a merciful leader who can pardon."
Putin also said two members of the punk rock group Pussy Riot would also be freed on amnesty.