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16 June 2004 -- The trial of Mikhail Khodorkovskii -- the ex-chief executive of Russian oil giant Yukos -- has begun in Moscow.

Khodorkovskii appeared in a Moscow regional court along with his close business associate Platon Lebedev, also a major shareholder in Yukos. The two face fraud and tax evasion charges.

Both men could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty. Khodorkovskii supporters say the case against him is politically motivated because Khodorkovskii funded opposition groups.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied such charges, warning that tax evasion will not be tolerated and other leading businessmen may face prosecution.

(Reuters/AP)
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