16:56 20 December 2013
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a pardon of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was once the richest man in Russia and who was jailed for 10 years.
An hour after the Kremlin published the decree at the end of Putin’s annual end-of-year news, the former oil tycoon was released and boarded a flight to Berlin, where his ill mother is being treated.
The decree said: "Guided by humanitarian principles, I decree that Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky ... should be pardoned and freed from any further punishment in the form of imprisonment. This decree comes into force from the day of its signing."
Mr Khodorkovsky, was convicted on charges including fraud and embezzlement and has been in prison since 2003.
Economic and political analysts said that this move is part of Russia’s attempt to improve its human rights record and international image ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in February.
Aside from Mr Khodorkovsky, the Kremlin also plans to free a group of Greenpeace activists who were arrested near an Artic oil rig in September.
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