Vladimir Putin vows to pardon jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos Oil tycoon was convicted of tax evasion and embezzlement
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he intends to pardon jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Putin told reporters he received a pardon request from Khodorkovsky's lawyers, who has been imprisoned for a decade, and intends to do so "soon" on humanitarian grounds.

"He has been in jail already more than 10 years, this is a serious punishment," said the Russian president during his annual end-of-year press conference.

"He cites humanitarian reasons. His mother is ill. I decided that with this circumstances in mind, it is necessary to take a decision, and in the near future a decree pardoning him will be signed," he added.

However, Khodorkovsky's main lawyer, Vadim Klyuvgant, denied making a pardon request on behalf of his client.

The former Yukos Oil tycoon, and once Russia's richest man, is set to leave prison in August after being convicted of tax evasion and embezzlement in 2003.

Human rights groups consider him a political prisoner and Putin's critics say his arrest was a deliberate attempt to stop him from entering politics.

Russian stocks climbed higher as investors reacted to the news, which could signal a more business-friendly approach from the Kremlin.