MOSCOW, January 10 (RAPSI) - Over 40% of Russians who are aware of former YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovsky are indifferent about the news that President Vladimir Putin granted him a pardon, according to a survey by the Public Opinion Foundation.

In 2005, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. The second trial commenced in March 2009 and concluded with a guilty verdict in December 2010. The Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow sentenced both men to 14 years in prison for oil theft and money laundering.

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

The foundation reports that currently, almost one-third of Russians (30%) don’t know who Khodorkovsky is. Out of those who do know, over 40% are indifferent about his release. Some 13% of Russians are pleased about the President’s decision, with 11% against the pardon. Some 5% were undecided. The majority of respondents who expressed their indifference were those with a higher education (49%) and those who earn over 20,000 rubles ($600) a month (53%).

Of those who approve of the President’s decision, some believe that Khodorkovsky had served almost his entire term, which was sufficient. Other respondents think that the court verdict was unfair, with a slightly smaller number of Russians feeling sorry for the businessman. Those against his release said that Khodorkovsky was thief who robbed the people and believed he ought to finish his term. Only 9% of the citizens have a positive opinion of Khodorkovsky. Some 15% feel strongly negative about him.

According to the opinion poll, 38% of Russians think the release is not important for Russia, only 7% see Khodorkovsky’s release as a significant event that will benefit the country, while 8% believe it will have adverse consequences.