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Britain questions Russia over Khodorkovsky case

Britain on Tuesday expressed concern over Russia’s commitment to the rule of law after a Moscow court upheld Kremlin-critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s fraud conviction.

An appeals judge cut the former tycoon’s jail term by one year to 2016 but maintained that he and his business partner Platon Lebedev must serve “13 years each in a general security prison,” an AFP correspondent reported from court.

“The failure of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev’s appeal has again highlighted concerns about the application of the rule of law in Russia,” said a statement from David Lidington, a minister from Britain’s Foreign Office.

“The UK believes that Russia’s people are best served by a fair and impartial judicial system which protects the legal rights of all individuals and ensures international investor confidence,” the statement added.

The decision was denounced by Khodorkovsky’s supporters, who believe he is a political victim of former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The international community joined in the condemnation with rights group Amnesty International declaring the oil magnate a “prisoner of conscience”.

Khodorkovsky was arrested on his private jet in 2003 in the heat of a power struggle with the Kremlin, during which he tried to influence Russia’s energy policies and financed various opposition parties.

The former Yukos oil boss, who was the country’s richest man at the time, was scheduled for release this year before a Moscow court found him guilty on a second set of fraud charges in December.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the time he was “deeply concerned by the implications … for confidence in how the law is applied in Russia.”