Tough stance urged over Russia tycoon

Britain should warn Russia that the latest controversial conviction of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky risks damaging trade links between the two countries, a senior Tory MP said.

Khodorkovsky, who was nearing the end of an eight-year sentence for tax fraud, was yesterday found guilty of theft and money laundering charges and now faces several more years behind bars.

His first conviction was seen as a punishment for challenging Kremlin power, and Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin also faces accusations of interfering in the latest legal action.

MP Richard Ottaway, who chairs the influential foreign affairs select committee, said it did not appear that the rule of law had been followed. He called on the UK Government to take a tough stance over the case.

"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 told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

He said it was not for Britain to get drawn into the "rights and wrongs" of the case, pointing to an apparent "power struggle going on inside the Kremlin over this particular case".

But he said the process raised serious concerns for Anglo-Russian commercial ties.

"I am very concerned about the way the court case has been conducted. The due process of law... I don't think has been followed here," he added.