Russian court orders release of former Khodorkovsky aide
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
Platon Lebedev, right, arrives in a courtroom in Moscow in 2011.
- NEW: Defense team says will "use every legal mechanism" to see tax claim dropped
- Platon Lebedev has sentence reduced
- Lebedev is latest high-profile prisoner to be freed in Russia
- Ruling comes after Khodorkovsky was pardoned and released in December
(CNN) -- The former business partner of Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky will be released early from prison under a ruling by Russia's Supreme Court that reduced his sentence, state media reported Thursday.
Platon Lebedev is the latest high-profile prisoner to be freed in Russia as the country prepares to host next month's Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Lebedev was convicted of tax evasion in 2005 and embezzlement and money laundering in 2010, state news agency Ria Novosti said.
It quoted his lawyer as saying he could be released later on Thursday.
Khodorkovsky: I don't know why I'm free
But the court said Lebedev and Khodorkovsky remain liable for 17 billion rubles ($500 million) in unpaid tax bills owed by the now-defuct Yukos oil company, Ria Novosti reported.
Former oil tycoon Khodorkovsky was pardoned and released from a Russian prison in December after spending 10 years in jail following a fraud and tax evasion conviction.
The tax debt is an obstacle to his return to Russia, after leaving for Germany and then Switzerland following his release.
Lebedev and Khodorkovsky's legal team expressed dismay that the tax claim, which it called "absurd," had not been revoked. It said it would "use every legal mechanism" to see it dropped.
"The existence of the claim deprives (Khodorkovsky) from an opportunity to come back to Russia, because as long as the claim stands, the 'iron curtain' can drop in front of him any time. And he cannot afford the luxury of losing his freedom of movement because of his health, family situation and strategic life plans," the team said in a statement.
"Some of the associates and former Yukos employees, who got caught in the wheels of criminal repressions, still remain in jail. And we will do everything it takes to have those unjustly convicted released as soon as possible, and to have all the unjust verdicts overturned," it added.
A new amnesty law introduced by President Vladimir Putin late last year also allowed two members of protest punk rock group Pussy Riot to leave prison two months before the end of their two-year sentences for a performance critical of Putin.
READ: Opinion: Don't be fooled by Putin's release of Khodorkovsky
CNN's Lindsay Isaac contributed to this report
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.