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Asia-Pacific

Khodorkovsky expects guilty verdict as Russian trial draws to close

media Mikhail Khodorkovsky (L) and Platon Lebedev during the trial Reuters/Tatyana Makeyeva

Jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky declared in court Tuesday that he does not expect to be acquitted in his much-publicised trial for embezzlement. The judge is to pass verdict in December.

In his final submission the millionaire former boss of oil giant Yukos said that he doesn't want to die in jail but added, "While there is always hope, no one believes we will be acquitted."

He and co-accused Platon Lebedev are accused of stealing and illegally reselling millions of tons of oil between 1998 and 2003 during controversial privatisations in the 1990s.

The two men were jailed for eight years in 2005 on fraud and tax evasion charges

Khodorkovsy’s supporters say the government wants to ensure he is kept in prison for as long as possible, because he challenged then president Vladimir Putin, who is now prime minister, by giving money to the opposition.

German Foreign Affairs Minister Guido Westerwelle, on an official visit to Moscow,
declared that "In civil society there are certain fears and concerns," during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

"We expressed these concerns," he aded. "It is in the interests of Russia that these concerns be taken seriously."

Trial judge Viktor Danilkin said he will begin pronouncing his verdict, which may take several days, on 15 December.

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