Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he plans to pardon jailed former oligarch and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Following a news conference on December 19, Putin told reporters that Khodorkovsky recently "wrote to me asking for pardon. He has already spent over 10 years in confinement. This is a serious punishment."
Putin added that Khodorkovsky said his mother was ill. "Considering all those circumstances, I believe it is possible to make a relevant decision and a [presidential] pardon decree for him will be signed in the nearest future," he said.
Khodorkovsky's lawyers denied the former head of the now dismantled Yukos oil company had asked for a pardon. Attorney Karina Moskalenko said, "I haven't heard anything about him requesting a pardon."
His legal team, however, later on December 19 said they would make no more statements before having met with Khodorkovsky, who is currently in a prison colony in the northwestern region of Karelia.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said that there was "a letter with his [Khodorkovsky's] signature" requesting a pardon.
Putin said during his news conference that there would be no third case brought against Khodorkovsky's former company Yukos but did not make mention, during the lengthy news conference, of any pardon for Khodorkovsky or his jailed partner, Platon Lebedev.
Khodorkovsky's lawyers have said requesting a pardon from Putin would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.
Pavel Krasheninnikov, the head of the State Duma Committee on Legislation, said that according to the Russian Constitution, it was not necessary to admit guilt in order to file a petition for a pardon.
Khodorkovsky continues to maintain his innocence. Critics say his conviction and imprisonment were politically motivated.
Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003, shortly after becoming active in Russian politics, and convicted of tax evasion in 2005. He was convicted of embezzlement at a second trial in 2010.
Khodorkovsky's prison term is due to expire in August 2014.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 1992, when he was chairman of the board of directors of Menatep bank
Khodorkovsky with his family in October 1992
Khodorkovsky and his family at their dacha in 1992
Khodorkovsky, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin (center), and Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kiriyenko (right) during the signing of a memorandum of intention to merge the Yukos and Sibneft companies on January 6, 1998
Khodorkovsky meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2002. Khodorkovsky challenged the Kremlin's authority by funding NGOs and opposition parties, lobbying to privatize the state-owned oil pipeline monopoly, and accusing Kremlin officials of corruption.
Khodorkovsky speaks at the Yukos headquarters in Moscow in June 2003, months before his arrest on fraud and tax evasion charges.
Russian police escort the former Yukos oil chief to a courthouse in Moscow on December 23, 2003.
Khodorkovsky supporters protest outside a Moscow court on January 15, 2004. Many Russians see him as a political prisoner jailed for political ambition and his criticism of President Putin. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience.
Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev hear the verdict in a Moscow court on May 16, 2005.
Khodorkovsky at a hearing at the Chita Regional Court in October 2008. During his imprisonment, Yukos was broken up and sold off, mostly into state hands.
Supporters rally on August 27, 2009, as prosecutors presented new charges against Khodorkovsky.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are escorted to a hearing in Moscow on January 11, 2010.
Elena Lukyanova (left), a lawyer for Khodorkovsky, and his daughter Anastasia Khodorkovskaya attend "Znamya" magazine's literary award ceremony in January 2010, where Khodorkovskaya received an award on her father's behalf for his "Dialogues With Lyudmila Ulitskaya."
The former CEO's mother, Marina Khodorkovskaya (right), his wife Inna (left), and his daughter Anastasia walk out after a court hearing in Moscow on December 30, 2010. A judge sentenced Khodorkovsky to additional prison time on new charges of financial crimes.
Khodorkovsky's book "Articles. Dialogues. Interviews." is presented in Moscow in January 2011.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev stand in the defendants' box during a hearing in Moscow in May 2011.
Police detain a Khodorkovsky supporter during a gathering in central Moscow in June 2011.
Activists in London send a birthday message to Khodorkovsky in 2012. On June 26, 2013, he celebrated his 50th birthday in a remote prison colony near the Arctic Circle.
Members of a pro-Kremlin youth group wear masks representing anti-Putin opposition leaders during a demonstration called "Send them to join Khodorkovsky as guests!" on the occasion of the jailed businessman's 50th birthday.
With reporting by ITAR-TASS and Interfax