MOSCOW, December 20 (RAPSI) – Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Friday pardoning jailed YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The decree will take effect immediately.

Russian Federal Penitentiary Service stated that Mikhail Khodorkovsky was hereby released from serving out his sentence further.

The president announced the possibility of a pardon for Khodorkovsky after wrapping up a four-hour press conference on Thursday. Khodorkovsky drew unwelcome attention from the authorities in the 2000s, early on in Putin’s presidency, by actively supporting and funding opposition parties.

The jailed tycoon has always maintained his innocence, claiming that all the cases against him and his business partners were Kremlin retribution for his political and business ambitions. The government has maintained that the matter was purely criminal.

In 2010, a Moscow district court sentenced Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev to 14 years in prison for oil theft and money laundering. They were expected to be released in 2017, taking into account the time that they had already served for their convictions from their first trial in 2005, when they were sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. However, on May 24, 2011, the Moscow City Court reduced their sentences by one year.

Then last year, the Moscow City Court reduced the sentence again from 13 to 11 years.

In August the Supreme Court held that the sentences of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev should be lowered to 10 years and 10 months, thus partially satisfying their requests on supervisory appeal.

The State Duma on Tuesday passed in the first reading an amnesty bill submitted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  The amnesty was arranged to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

On Wednesday, the document was published on the official legal information website. It is deemed to come into effect. Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a governmental publication that prints all bills after their approval, will publish it on Thursday.