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Lebedev to be freed after pardon of his business partner Khodorkovsky

Russia’s top court has ruled to release the jailed business partner of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev. The ruling comes just one month after Khodorkovsky received a pardon from President Vladimir Putin.

Russia's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Platon Lebedev was to be granted early release from prison, Russian news agencies reported.

Lebedev had been due for release in May but the Supreme Court ruled that he would be able to walk free on Friday.

Lebedev and his business partner Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky were jailed in 2003 and sentenced in 2005 for financial crimes.

Both men spent more than 10 years in prison in a case seen as President Vladimir Putin's revenge against Khodorkovsky for challenging his economic and political power.

At the time of his arrest Khodorkovsky was Russia's richest man with an estimated wealth of $8 billion (5.85 billion euros).

The president pardoned Khodorkovsky last month, ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics, but Lebedev did not seek a pardon.

Thursday's ruling, however, did not change a court order under which Lebedev and Khodorkovsky must pay 17 billion roubles ($521 million) in tax claims.

hc/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)