Medvedev sympathizes with Khodorkovsky, but sentence remains in force
MOSCOW, January 25 - RAPSI. President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday that former YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovsky's fate is unfortunate, but as long as his sentence stands he is considered guilty.
In late 2010, a Moscow district court sentenced Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev to imprisonment for stealing 200 million tonnes of oil and money laundering.
"As for his destiny, it is unfortunate and I sympathize with him. However, I have stated my position on many occasions and it just cannot be different. The president cannot have another position. As long as Khodorkovsky's sentence remains in force, he is guilty of committing a crime," Medvedev told students at the Moscow State University's School of Journalism.
The YUKOS case has been one of the most high profile in Russia in recent years. In the early 2000s, the authorities accused the executives of YUKOS, then the country's largest oil company, of economic crimes. YUKOS then went bankrupt while its assets were transferred to the state Rosneft. Many in the West believe the case against YUKOS was politically driven, but Moscow flatly denies the charges.
In 2005, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. In late 2010, a Moscow district court sentenced them to 14 years in prison for oil theft and money laundering. They were expected to be released in 2017, taking into account the time they had already served for their convictions from their first trial in 2005. However, on May 24, the Moscow City Court reduced their sentences by one year. They now may be released in 2016.