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Khodorkovsky's Attorney Appeals New Sentence

Mikhail Khodorkovsky after being sentenced in a Moscow court, 30 Dec 2010

Mikhail Khodorkovsky after being sentenced in a Moscow court, 30 Dec 2010

An attorney for jailed Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky has appealed his sentence of six more years in prison for fraud and embezzlement.

Karina Moskalenko says she filed a preliminary appeal Friday, ahead of a 10-day New Year break by Russian courts.

On Thursday, Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were given new sentences that ended a 20-month trial and added six years to the eight they have already spent behind bars.

Western governments criticized the ruling. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that opinions expressed abroad should not and cannot impact decisions made by Russia's judicial authorities. He said Russian courts are independent of both Russian and foreign officials.

Defense lawyer Yury Shmidt said the sentences were the result of political pressure from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky's fortunes changed in 2003 when he challenged then-President Putin and supported the powerful politician's opponents.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that the sentencing appeared to be "an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends." German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it appeared that "political motives played a role" in the proceedings.

Human Rights Watch and several other rights groups sent a letter to President Dmitry Medvedev citing flaws in how both men were tried and alleging government intimidation of witnesses.