Around 1,000 people have rallied in central Saint Petersburg in support of jailed Russian entrepreneur Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who faces a new court verdict next week that could keep him locked up.
Khodorkovsky says the fate of Russia rests on his verdict
On Russia's Constitution Day, December 12, several hundred Russians gathered in downtown Saint Petersburg to show their support for jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev.
Khodorkovsky, once Russia's most wealthy businessman, is awaiting the verdict of a second trial on embezzlement and money laundering charges, after being sentenced to eight years in prison on fraud charges in 2003.
"We believe that the sentence on Khodorkovsky will be the sentence on the future. Whatever it is, it will shape our tomorrow," said Olga Kurnosova of the oppositional movement United Civic Front.
In the streets of Petersburg, people chanted "Freedom for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev!" and "The people united will never be defeated!" while some held up large portraits of the former head of Yukos oil company saying "Justice is me," signed "Putin".
Khodorkovsky's supporters see his trial as politically motivated and masterminded by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was president when Khodorkovsky was first jailed in 2003.
His sentence comes to an end next year, but if he is found guilty of the new charges, he faces up to 22 years in prison.
A Moscow court will begin reading the verdict on Wednesday.
Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Ben Knight