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Khodorkovsky's jail term trimmed by supreme court

Russia's highest court has reduced the prison terms of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner - but only by two months. Their lawyers, who have demanded their release, say they will appeal.

The Supreme Court in Moscow on Tuesday reduced the prison terms for former Yukos boss Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev from 11 years to 10 years and 10 months.

Lawyers for Khodorkovsky (pictured above) and Lebedev say they will continue to press for their release.

The two men were arrested in 2003 and convicted in 2005 of evading taxes on the Yukos oil company. They were convicted again in a 2010 trial for allegedly stealing oil from Yukos and laundering the proceeds.

The second trial, which came shortly before they were due to be released from their first prison term, extended their sentence to 2017, a term that was reduced last December. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are now scheduled to be freed in 2014.

Both trials have been widely seen as politically motivated, with pro-opposition supporters claiming that Khodorkovsky was put behind bars to prevent him posing a political challenge to President Vladimir Putin.

Khodorkhovsky, 50, was formerly the richest man in Russia and an outspoken Putin critic who financed political opposition to the president.

The 56-year-old Lebedev was head of the former Menatep bank that formed a part of Khordorkovsky's conglomerate.

Khodorkovsky remains defiant

The Supreme Court agreed in a surprise decision in May to hear the appeal by Khodorkovsky, which was lodged in March.

Khodorkovsky spoke at the appeal hearing via video link from a remote prison colony in Karelia in northwest Russia.

In his comments, he denounced what he said was the usage of Russian prosecutors and investigators as an "instrument of domestic politics in Russia."

"We are not talking about implementing the law; we are talking about a readiness to sacrifice the reputation of the legal system for the sake of a new prison sentence for an opponent of the authorities," he added.

tj/ipj (AFP, AP, dpa)