Putin rival has prison term cut by two years

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A RUSSIAN court has reduced former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s jail sentence for embezzlement by two years, clearing the way for one of president Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics to walk free in October 2014.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, is serving a 13-year sentence on charges of tax evasion and money laundering, seen by Mr Putin’s critics as a politically motivated act of revenge.

One of the young tycoons who built fortunes after the Soviet Union’s collapse, Khodorkovsky had appeared to defy calls by the president for oligarchs to stay out of politics. After his arrest in 2003, his Yukos oil company was broken up and sold off, mainly into state hands.

Once freed, some believe he could unite Russia’s fragmented opposition.