April 27, 2011 / 6:25 PM / 6 years ago

Khodorkovsky appeal set for May 17: Russian court

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<p>Jailed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky (L) talks to a lawyer from the defendant's cage during a session of the Russian Supreme court in Moscow April 15, 2011.Alexander Natruskin</p>

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court will begin considering ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's appeal against his conviction on multi-billion-dollar theft and money laundering charges on May 17, a court official said on Wednesday.

Khodorkovsky, first convicted of fraud and tax evasion in 2005, was sentenced last December to stay in jail until 2017 after a politically charged second trial seen as a test of President Dmitry Medvedev's vows to improve the rule of law.

The 14-year sentence imposed on Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, includes his current eight-year term and is counted from the day of his arrest at a Siberian airport in 2003.

Lawyers defending him and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev vowed to appeal after accusing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of putting pressure on the court.

Two weeks before the December 30 verdict, Putin had commented that 'a thief must sit in jail' and suggested Khodorkovsky was behind murders when he headed oil firm Yukos. The company has been broken up and its best assets transferred to state hands.

An aide to the judge stepped down last month after saying the guilty verdict had been dictated from above.

One of the oligarchs who built fortunes after the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse, Khodorkovsky fell out with Putin after airing corruption allegations, challenging state control over oil exports and funding opposition parties.

Prominent members of the Russian elite have said the case had the potential to hurt new investment in the country. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Russia earlier this year to improve its investment climate, citing the Khodorkovsky case.

Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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