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Oil tycoon's partner Lebedev freed

A business partner of former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was freed from prison yesterday after spending more than 10 years behind bars.

The release of Platon Lebedev came a month after Mr Khodorkovsky was unexpectedly freed after being pardoned by President Vladimir Putin.

A court ruled on Thursday that Mr Lebedev's sentence should be reduced to time served.

Both men were arrested in 2003 in a tax evasion case seen as revenge for Mr Khodorkovsky challenging Mr Putin's power in the early years of his presidency. They had been scheduled for release later this year.

The federal penitentiary service said Mr Lebedev was freed late yesterday from a prison in the north-western Arkhangelsk region.

In a post on Mr Khodorkovsky's website, Mr Lebedev's lawyer Vladimir Krasnov said Mr Lebedev was in a car on his way to Moscow, travelling with his son and daughter.

They were expected to reach Moscow this morning, the lawyer said.

Mr Khodorkovsky, who was flown directly to Germany upon his release, has said he will not return to Russia because of a back tax claim that could be used to prevent him from leaving again.

Mr Lebedev's plans were not yet known.



From Belfast Telegraph