A Moscow court has reduced by six months the seven-year prison term of a lawyer for Russia's embattled Yukos oil company who was convicted in April of embezzlement.

The city court in the Russian capital dropped a tax evasion charge against Svetlana Bakhmina on grounds that the statute of limitations on the crime had expired. But it turned down her appeal for acquittal on the charge of stealing property belonging to a Yukos subsidiary, Tomskneft.

Bakhmina's imprisonment since 2004 and her long sentence have provoked widespread criticism because it deprived her two small children of their mother.

Russian authorities have filed repeated claims against Yukos for tax evasion in recent years, effectively breaking up what had been Russia's largest oil company.

The former chief executive of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is serving an eight-year term at a Siberian prison following conviction on tax evasion and fraud charges.

Supporters of the former oil tycoon say Russia's government is punishing him for supporting opposition politicians. Kremlin authorities deny this, insisting Khodorkovsky is a common criminal.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.