Putin To Pardon Jailed Oil Tycoon

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was the richest man in Russia before he was imprisoned almost 10 years ago

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he will pardon oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, in what appeared to be an effort to mitigate international criticism ahead of the Winter Olympics in February.

Putin told reporters that Khordorkovsky, who submitted an appeal for pardon after 10 years in prison, will be freed “in the nearest time,” the Associated Press reports. The businessman, who was convicted of tax evasion in 2005 and then, five years later, of embezzlement, was set to be released in August 2014.

The Russian president spoke to reporters during a lengthy news conference in which he played down tensions with the European Union and the United States — saying controversial U.S. surveillance programs are necessary to fight terrorism  — and confirmed that Greenpeace activists and members of the Pussy Riot band will be pardoned