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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Says He Will Pardon Pope

President Vladimir Putin has indicated that he would pardon U.S. businessman and former naval intelligence officer Edmond Pope, convicted last week as a spy.

U.S. President Bill Clinton said the move would be a "great relief to all Americans."

Putin told reporters Saturday that he felt obliged to heed his pardons commission, which recommended Friday that Pope, 54, go free. Clinton said Putin had promised him over the telephone that he would pardon Pope.

The announcements seemed to resolve the fate Pope, who had been sentenced to 20 years.

Putin said he could not free Pope until Thursday, when his sentence formally starts. Pope?s wife, Cheri, in Moscow pleading on her husband?s behalf, was said to be encouraged but not prepared to celebrate until her husband was free.

"You know the decision of the Presidential Pardons Commission," Putin said. "The pardons commission is made up of wholly authoritative and respected public figures and cultural figures, and of course I cannot but heed their opinion."

Clinton told reporters at the White House that the decision might repair ties between Washington and Moscow, strained over the past few years by arms control, Kosovo and other issues.

"He [Putin] told me he was going to do it," Clinton said. "I?m very appreciative of his action. ? It?s something I think is very positive, not only on the merits of this [case] but for the long-term health of our relations with Russia."

Putin, speaking to reporters on a visit to Magnitogorsk in the Ural Mountains, said maintaining ties between the countries was a motive behind his decision.

Pope was arrested in April by the Federal Security Service and charged with trying to buy secrets about a high-speed torpedo.

He said he was doing research on possible civilian uses for military technology, and none of the material he sought was secret. But after a trial closed to the public, a court convicted and sentenced him Wednesday.

Putin Calls for Price Regulation

Also Saturday, Putin said the state should regulate rising electricity and transportation costs and protect the millions of Russians living below the poverty level, The Associated Press reported.

"We have been observing an uncontrolled growth of prices lately" in electricity and transportation costs, Putin said. The state should step in to slow the rise, he said.