A Russian cabinet minister says the trial of the former chief executive of the Yukos oil company is proceeding correctly within Russia's legal system. The official, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, discussed the case at a London news conference.

Mr. Ivanov was asked why Russia should be considered a serious democratic partner of the west at the same time it tries former Yukos oil chief, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, on charges of tax evasion and fraud.

Critics say Mr. Khodorkovsky is being prosecuted because he supported opposition politicians.

Mr. Ivanov said there are different understandings of democracy between the East and the West.

"I believe the notion of democracy that you have utmost in your mind is your own notion of democracy in the west," he said. "If there is such as thing as western democracy, there should also be eastern democracy. I believe the theme that matters greatly here about democracy is the full compliance with the laws and the constitution in effect in Russia."

Mr. Ivanov said the Khodorkovsky case deals with alleged criminal activity, not supposed violations of democratic principles or human rights.

"As far as I know, such criminal charges are more often than not pressed as well against these quarters [accused] also in the well-developed western democracies," said Mr. Ivanov.

Mr. Ivanov spoke with reporters following talks in London on defense-related issues with his British counterpart, Geoff Hoon.