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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tycoon's Lawyer Met Germany's Steinmeier

Ahead of a trip by President Dmitry Medvedev to Berlin this week, Germany's foreign minister has met with a lawyer representing Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a German diplomatic source said Saturday.

Foreign Minister Franz-Walter Steinmeier met an unidentified lawyer representing Khodorkovsky at a Moscow hotel during a visit to Russia in May, the German source said.

The source declined to give further details.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Steinmeier had discussed the possibility of getting Khodorkovsky transferred to Moscow on humanitarian grounds from his Chita prison, where he is serving an eight-year sentence.

Medvedev will visit Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A government spokesman said Merkel would discuss a range of issues with Medvedev but declined to say whether she would raise Khodorkovsky's case.

Der Spiegel cited no sources for its story. Neither a spokesman for Khodorkovsky nor his U.S. lawyer Robert Amsterdam were immediately available to comment.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, however, said Friday that he would advise Medvedev against granting Khodorkovsky any "privileges."

"He broke the law, repeatedly and flagrantly," Putin said in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde transmitted live to journalists in Paris on Friday. "The group he belonged to was accused of crimes against people, not just in the economic sphere, and this was proven in a court of law. They committed murders, more than one person. This kind of 'competition' is not admissible. And we'll do our best to stop it."

Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 in what was widely regarded as a Kremlin campaign to punish him for his political and business ambitions. The arrest was criticized in the West, and a number of politicians have called for his release.

"Just as I was when I was president, Dmitry Medvedev should be guided by Russian legislation," Putin said. "Mr. Medvedev, like myself, graduated from the law department of St. Petersburg University. We had good teachers who taught us to respect the law. And I've known Mr. Medvedev for many years. He will respect the law and, incidentally, he has said this in public several times."

Putin said in March that any question of pardoning Khodorkovsky would fall to Medvedev. By law, Khodorkovsky would have to admit his guilt in any appeal to the president for a pardon. Khodorkovsky maintains his innocence.

Khodorkovsky, speaking in an interview with The Sunday Times last month, declined to comment on whether he would seek a pardon from Medvedev.

But he did say he was cautiously optimistic about Medvedev's desire to overhaul the country's notoriously corrupt legal system.

"The outcome of my case depends on the speed with which reform to the judicial system, which Medvedev has said he wants, will take place," Khodorkovsky said. "In an independent court, only a complete idiot would swallow the kind of case brought against me. Unfortunately, reforms don't happen overnight, but some steps taken by Medvedev's team are cause for cautious optimism."

Medvedev has issued several calls to crack down on the country's "legal nihilism."