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Russia trims Yukos defendant's sentence

Aug. 9, 2012 at 12:04 AM

MOSCOW, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- A Russian judge Wednesday reduced the prison sentence of an associate of the main figure in the so-called Yukos affair.

Platon Lebedev had more than three years shaved off the three years in prison he had been given following two separate convictions for fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion.

The Moscow Times reported the judge in Velsk modified Lebedev's sentence under recent changes to Russia's white-collar sentencing rules. He could get out in March provided prosecutors don't contest Wednesday's ruling.

Lebedev had been a business associate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the onetime oil tycoon who ran the Yukos Oil Co. in the 1990s. Yukos went under in 2003 and Khodorkovsky was convicted on fraud charges.

Khodorkovsky's supporters have alleged he was set up by the Russian government because of his political ambitions. Lebedev's supporters said he was targeted by Moscow because of his ties with Khodorkovsky.

Political analysts told the Times it appeared the Kremlin was easing up on the Yukos figures in order to balance out a new crackdown on political opposition.

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