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Russia hits out over Khodorkovsky

Updated: 2010-12-29 10:50


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Russia hits out over Khodorkovsky
Jailed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands in the defendants' cage before the start of a court session in Moscow December 28, 2010.[Photo/Agencies]

Russia accused the United States and Europe on Tuesday of trying to influence the trial of jailed former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, calling such efforts unacceptable and warning the West to mind its own business.

Moscow's angry message came as Khodorkovsky, whose imprisonment has been a bone of contention between Russia and the West for years, awaited a new sentence that could keep him in jail until 2017 after being found guilty of theft.

Prosecutors are seeking an additional six-year prison term for Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos oil company CEO who is 10 months from the end of an eight-year sentence imposed after a previous trial.

"Attempts to apply pressure on the court are unacceptable," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, responding to US and EU criticism aired on Monday after Khodorkovsky was found guilty of multi-billion-dollar theft and money laundering.

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"We are counting on everyone to mind his own business -- both at home and in the international arena," it said.

In the second trial, prosecutors said Khodorkovsky stole $27 billion in oil from Yukos subsidiaries through pricing schemes and laundered some of the money, charges he called absurd.

Western officials said the guilty verdict raised doubts about the Kremlin's commitment to the rule of law and human rights, and warned they were closely watching the case.

The Russian ministry said the trial was a matter for Russia's courts and rejected US suggestions that the verdict resulted from selective justice as "groundless."

The warning suggested the outcome of Khodorkovsky's second trial could cause friction with Europe and strain the "reset" that has improved ties between the United States and Russia.

Trial judge Viktor Danilkin edged toward sentencing Khodorkovsky, who has been in jail since 2003, plowing through a lengthy guilty verdict against the tycoon and his business partner Platon Lebedev.

Danilkin is expected to hand down the sentence sometime this week when he finishes reading out the verdict.


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