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Lawyers for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the ex-head of the bankrupt oil company
Lawyers for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the ex-head of the bankrupt oil company Yukos, filed on Wednesday an application with a Siberian court for his early release.

One of Khodorkovsky's lawyers, Yury Schmidt, said however that the application for early release was "not an appeal for a pardon" and that it was not an "admission of guilt".

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were found guilty of tax evasion and large-scale fraud by a Moscow court in May 2005 and sentenced to nine years in prison. The Moscow City Court later reduced their terms to eight years. They are both serving their sentences in Chita, in East Siberia.

On July 11, a Chita court ruled to extend Khodorkovsky's pre-trial custody to November 2, after prosecutors brought new charges against him and his business partner Platon Lebedev. The charges involved stealing 350 million metric tons of oil and laundering $28.3 billion. Even if Khodorkovsky were to be granted an early release, these charges mean that he would not be immediately released, his lawyer stressed on Wednesday.

The jailing of Khodorkovsky and other executives of what was once Russia's largest independent oil producer has been widely criticized in the West and seen as part of the Kremlin's drive to regain lucrative energy assets.


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