The Russian judiciary system is completely independent from the positions of the Russian Federation and any other foreign government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
The Khamovniki District Court in Moscow on Thursday sentenced ex-Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev to a total of 14 years in prison in the second trial involving Yukos assets. With time already served counting towards this total, both men could remain behind bars until 2017.
"They (the courts, ed.) are independent from Russian and other foreign governments," Lavrov told leading foreign journalists in Moscow when asked to comment on Khodorkovsky's new sentence.
Many Western organizations and countries, including the United States and the European Union, have condemned the verdict as harsh and unfair, and expressed concern over the fact that the judicial system in Russia has shown no signs of improvement despite President Dmitry Medvedev's pledge to make it just and transparent.
"The sentence is a blow to the rule of law in Russia. Everything about the charges and the trial indicates that the case against him is political," Rachel Denber, acting head of Human Rights Watch in Europe and Central Asia, said earlier on Friday.
The lawyers of ex-oil tycoon Khodorkovsky and Lebedev on Friday sent an appeal to the Khamovniki District Court on its ruling to sentence the two businessmen, who have already served eight years of a previous sentence, and were sentenced to 14 years on Thursday for a second round of charges brought against them.
"And if anyone is extremely concerned over the verdict, then I would like to remind them that anyone who is sentenced has the right to an appeal according to law, which, according to reports from the media, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev's lawyers have already made," Lavrov said.
The lawyer for the ex-head of Yukos, Karina Moskalenko, said that so far only a short version of an appeal has been submitted because the defense plans to submit a full appeal within the 10-day timeframe allowed by Russian law.
"In the short version of the appeal, we only express our disagreement with the guilty verdict and ask the Moscow Court to stop the process of the criminal charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev," Moskalenko said, adding: "A full version of the appeal with all of our arguments and grounds to stop the proceedings will be submitted; as soon as we get a copy of the sentencing, we will submit [the full appeal] because we have a number of claims against both the verdict itself and the court protocol."
Judge Viktor Danilkin delivered the sentence on Thursday after convicting Russia's once richest man Khodorkovsky of stealing 218 million tons of oil from his own company, Yukos, and laundering the proceeds, worth around $100 million.
Another of Khodorkovsky's defense team, Yury Shmidt, said after the trial they were planning to appeal since "the verdict is illegal, unjustified, not based on the real evidence and was made under pressure."
MOSCOW, December 31 (RIA Novosti)