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Russian oil tycoon Khodorkovsky sentenced to six more years

Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sentenced to six more years of jail time Thursday, following a trial that has been widely criticized as politically tinged.

By Correspondent / December 30, 2010

Mikhail Khodorkovsky (l.) and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev smile from behind bars at a court room in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday. On Thursday, Khodorkovsky was sentenced to six more years in a trial that his followers condemned as politically tinged.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

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Already-imprisoned Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a businessman who has long been at odds with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was sentenced to another six years in prison on Thursday.

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Mr. Khodorovsky was found guilty earlier this week of embezzling $27 billion from Yukos, the oil company he built with his business partner, Platon Lebedev. The two have already spent seven years in jail after receiving an eight-year sentence on charges of tax evasion and fraud. With the new sentence, they will spend 14 years total in jail.

The trial and sentencing have been widely criticized for being driven by politics rather than a desire for justice – not because Khodorkovsky is not guilty, but because he and his partner are not the only prominent Russian businessmen who have a history of suspected shady financial dealings. International response has been strong and condemning, the Monitor reported.

The politically-tinged case against the men has drawn international ire, perhaps nowhere more so than from the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, [who] issued a statement yesterday saying the latest conviction brings up "serious questions about selective prosecution – and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations." Germany called the conviction a setback for Russian democracy.

The case against Khodorovsky was only initiated when he began using his wealth from Yukos, a company he paid the government $350 million for, to support pro-democracy groups and candidates not approved by Putin, who was president when he ordered the prosecution. “His legal travails have long been taken as a pointed object lesson for other Russian businessmen,” the Monitor reported.

A WikiLeaks cable released late Wednesday supports this perception. The cable, which dates to December 2009 and was sent from the US Embassy in Moscow, is titled “Rule of Law Lipstick on a Political Pig: Khodorkovsky Case Plods Along,” the Moscow Times reported.

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