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Yukos CEO Found Guilty On Most Charges

Demonstrators at Khodorkovskii's trial Moscow, 17 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- A Moscow court today found jailed former Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovskii guilty of most of the fraud, tax evasion, and embezzlement charges against him, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported, citing Interfax.

The court reportedly has yet to read out its decision on one last charge before it can pronounce a final verdict against Khodorkovskii and his co-defendant, former top Yukos executive Platon Lebedev. It must also read summations of witness testimony.

Russian authorities accuse Khodorkovskii and Lebedev of massive tax evasion, illegal privatization, and embezzlement.

The prosecution has requested that the oil tycoon get the maximum 10-year prison sentence, while the defense has asked for him to be cleared of all charges and said it will appeal any conviction.

Russian tax authorities have demanded that Yukos pay $27.4 billion for what they claim were back taxes. Prior to his arrest in October 2003, Khodorkovskii was Russia's richest man, with a fortune estimated at $15 billion.

The trial, however, is widely perceived as a Kremlin-led campaign to crush Khodorkovskii’s political ambitions and punish him for supporting opposition parties.

Abroad, the verdict is likely to further shake investor confidence and tarnish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s image, both badly hurt by the 11-month trial.

Hundreds of protesters on both sides of the issue gathered outside the Moscow courthouse yesterday and today. Anti-Khodorkovskii demonstrators today held banners reading "Putin, protect us from Khodorkovskii."

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