Global General

Russia slashes Western pressure on tycoons' trial

Updated: 2010-12-28 22:52
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MOSCOW - Russia's Foreign Ministry Tuesday criticized the attempts of several Western countries to exert pressure on the cases of former tycoons Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, saying the attempts were "unacceptable."

"This issue falls under the jurisdiction of the judicial system of the Russian Federation. Attempts to put pressure on the court are unacceptable," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

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The ministry also pointed out that those accused of tax evasion and money laundering in the US received life imprisonment.

"Any judgment about selective justice in Russia is groundless," the Foreign Ministry said.

"We believe everybody ought to mind its own business, both domestically and internationally," the ministry added.

On Monday, a district judge in Moscow found both men guilty of embezzlement, large-scale oil theft and legalizing stolen property.

After the verdict was announced, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton said that the verdict would have negative effect on Russia's human rights record. She called the trial "a selective persecution."

The German foreign minister also called the verdict "a step back" for Russia.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sentenced to nine years of imprisonment in 2005 for tax evasion and fraud. Their sentences were later reduced to eight years.

In 2009 when their first trial had nearly drawn to an end, the two men were returned from the Siberian Chita region to Moscow to face a second trial.