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Putin could free Khodorkovsky, punk band in amnesty: rights adviser

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) - Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and two jailed members of punk protest band Pussy Riot could walk free under an amnesty President Vladimir Putin is expected to approve by the end of the year, a Kremlin human rights adviser said on Wednesday.
/ Source: Reuters

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) - Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and two jailed members of punk protest band Pussy Riot could walk free under an amnesty President Vladimir Putin is expected to approve by the end of the year, a Kremlin human rights adviser said on Wednesday.

Putin told his presidential human rights council in September to make suggestions for an amnesty to mark the 20th anniversary of the passage of Russia's post-Soviet constitution in December 1993.

After meeting Putin, rights council head Mikhail Fedotov told reporters he believed Khodorkovsky and two jailed Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, would be eligible for release under the amnesty.

"I think so," Fedotov told reporters after the meeting. "Those are non-violent crimes."

Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot are seen by many Kremlin critics and Western governments as victims of political trials. Freeing them could be a bid to improve Putin's image before Russia hosts the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in February.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are due for release in March after serving two-year sentences for performing a "punk prayer" in Russia's main cathedral in February 2012, and Khodorkovsky is due for release in August.

Former Yukos oil company chief Khodorkovsky has been in jail since his arrest in 2003 and was convicted of financial crimes in two trials supporters say were part of a drive to punish him for challenging Putin and to put his oil assets in state hands.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Mark Trevelyan)