Britain in muted reaction to Khodorkovsky verdict

27th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain said Monday it would stress to Russia that the law should be applied in a "non-discriminatory and proportional way" after the second fraud conviction of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

In a muted reaction to the verdict, the Foreign Office said it had been "watching the trial closely" and welcomed President Dmitry Medvedev's "focus on the need to strengthen the rule of law in Russia".

A statement said: "We believe that Russia's people, and Russia's future, are best served by a judicial system properly independent of Government or other outside interference; a system which administers justice consistently, transparently and objectively.

"This is also important in sustaining an environment in which investors can remain confident that they can do business, and that property and other rights are soundly protected."

Britain also welcomed Medvedev's focus on tackling corruption and promoting the judiciary's independence, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

She added: "We, together with our EU partners, will continue to make clear to the Russian government our concerns that the law should be applied in a non-discriminatory and proportional way."

Britain's fellow EU member Germany was more direct. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "very worried" by Khodorkovsky's second conviction and called it a "step backward" for Russia.

Britain has been trying to improve relations with Russia which were plunged into deep freeze following the death by poisoning of dissident Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

© 2010 AFP

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