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Khodorkovsky sentence set to be reduced

Mikhail KhodorkovskyThe Yukos two's release date just got earlier, the Supreme Court is expected to say tomorrow.

Legal eagles are training their eyes on Russia's highest court, which is expected to rule on Friday that when Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev's jail terms were extended by three months, the Khamovnichesky district court acted illegally.

"They are definitely going to agree with the decision, the law is pretty clear and the Supreme Court wrote everything down pretty clearly. For the authorities it does not matter so much, but it will warm the soul of Mr Medvedev," Yury Schmidt, one of Khodorkovsky's legal team, told The Moscow News.

Illegal detention

An amendment to laws on economic crime passed by president Medvedev in April last year demands less prison time for financial felonies, so long as they do not involve violence. The amendment was intended to encourage suspects to be bailed while awaiting trial, RIA Novosti reported.

And it affects the extra three months handed to Khodorkovsky and Lebedev in August. The Moscow lower court's ruling to keep Khodorkovsky and Lebedev behind bars was technically inadmissible, the complaint says.

Flash in the pan

But however confident Khodorkovsky's and Lebedev's lawyer are for tomorrow, these three months are not going to have a great effect on their overall fate.

"It doesn't change anything for Mikhail Borisovich but it brings great moral satisfaction. He has long lived according to the principles of the public interest. He gets great satisfaction from the fact that we have stood by our principles and feels that legal nihilism should be eliminated in Russia," said Schmidt.

"It is his small contribution to the destiny of people who will have to walk this road and he thinks it's a small step in the right direction."

Political football

Many commentators damn the Khodorkovsky prosecution as a political case, something the Kremlin has always firmly denied.

In June Vladimir Pribylovsky, Panorama think tank head, told The Moscow News that Khodorkovsky's fate would be determined by political directive, and that if he were to be acquitted it would mean power was slipping from Vladimir Putin to Medvedev.

The recent turn of events does not show this is happening, he said on Thursday. "This doesn't seriously change anything and it doesn't mean that Khodorkovsky will be released but it increases the chances that the status quo will remain; that Medvedev will remain as president and that Putin will not run for a third term at the next election," he said by telephone.

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