Russia blasts back at Western critics of fallen oil tycoon's trial

Russia's foreign ministry has angrily rejected Western criticism of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's conviction in a second criminal case, saying it amounted to pressuring the court.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was convicted of stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds.

The verdict is likely to keep the tycoon, who once challenged the power of Vladimir Putin, behind bars for several more years.

He was first jailed in 2005, for fraud and tax evasion.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a chorus of political figures in the United States and Europe in condemning the verdict, saying that it raised "serious questions about selective prosecution and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations".

The Russian Foreign Ministry said yesterday that the claims of selective justice were unfounded and attempts to exert pressure on the court were "unacceptable."

The statement said: "We expect everyone to mind his own business, both at home and in the international arena."

The judge found Khodorkovsky and his former business partner Platon Lebedev guilty of stealing from their own firm, Yukos, and laundering the proceeds.

Delivering the full verdict and sentence is expected to take several days.

The White House said it was "deeply concerned" about the verdict, calling it a "selective application" of justice.

Germany said the trial was "a step back".

On Monday a senior Tory MP said Britain should warn Russia that the conviction risks damaging trade links between the two countries.

Richard Ottaway, who chairs the influential Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said it did not appear that the rule of law had been followed.

"I think we have got to make the point pretty forcefully that if they expect a good trading relationship between the two countries, we want to see a rule of law and a commercial code that we can all understand and follow," he said.

He added that the "due process of law that we in the UK would recognise" had not been followed.

Khodorkovsky's lawyers have dismissed the charges as an absurd pretext to keep the two men behind bars, one of them, Vadim Klyuvgant, condemned "an unjust verdict by a court that is not free", saying it was "shameful for the country".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the trial had raised "serious questions" about the rule of law in Russia and the verdict would have a "negative impact on Russia's reputation".