Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been released from prison just hours after President Vladimir Putin signed a pardon for him, ending more than 10 years of detention for tax evasion and embezzlement.
Mr. Putin said earlier Friday on his website that he was pardoning the former Yukos oil company head for humanitarian reasons.
The Russian president first announced his intention to free Khodorkovsky during a lengthy news conference Thursday covering a wide range of topics. At that time, he said Khodorkovsky had, for the first time, requested a pardon because his mother is ill.
Russia's former richest man was a strong critic of the Kremlin, and his backers considered him a political prisoner.
Mr. Putin also said two members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band will be freed on amnesty.
His announcements come ahead of Russia hosting the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February. The lead-up to the event has put Russia's human rights record in the spotlight.