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Khodorkovsky: Fate of Russia rests on my verdict

 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is escorted to the court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 1, 2010. Khodorkovsky, 47, was Russia's richest man wh...
 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, left, and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev, right, stand behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia, Mond...
 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 1, 2010. Khodorkovsky, 47, was Russia's r...
 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is escorted to the court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010.  Khodorkovsky, 47, was Russia's richest man ...
 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass pane at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodo...
 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky waves as he stands behind a glass pane at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon M...
 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, left, is escorted to the court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsk...
 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass pane at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodo...
 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stand behind a glass pane at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodor...
 Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands at a court surrounded by police officers in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mik...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is escorted to the court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 1, 2010. Khodorkovsky, 47, was Russia's richest man wh...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, left, and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev, right, stand behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia, Mond...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 1, 2010. Khodorkovsky, 47, was Russia's r...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is escorted to the court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Khodorkovsky, 47, was Russia's richest man ...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass pane at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodo...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky waves as he stands behind a glass pane at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon M...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, left, is escorted to the court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsk...

APTOPIX Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass pane at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodo...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stand behind a glass pane at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodor...

Russia Khodorkovsky

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands at a court surrounded by police officers in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Jailed oil tycoon Mik...

Imprisoned oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky gave an impassioned final address to a Moscow court Tuesday, telling the judge that the fate of the entire nation rests on the verdict in his trial.
In his last words before court proceedings were adjourned until Dec. 15, Khodorkovsky also said he was ready to spend the rest of his life in prison, insisting that the principles he believed in were "worth my life."
Khodorkovsky, 47, was Russia's richest man and the owner of its largest and fastest-growing oil company when he was arrested in 2003 on charges of tax evasion. The eight-year sentence he received and the state's takeover of his Yukos oil company were widely seen as punishment for his decision to challenge the authority of the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.
He is now a year from release but is being tried on a second raft of politically driven charges that could keep him behind bars until 2017.
Putin, now prime minister, has not ruled out a return to the presidency in 2012, and critics suspect him of wanting to keep Khodorkovsky incarcerated until after the election. The case is being closely watched to gauge whether Russia has strengthened its commitment to the rule of law as President Dmitry Medvedev has promised.
"Here and now, the fate of every citizen of our country is being decided," Khodorkovsky, dressed in a black polo shirt and worn-out black suede jacket, said unwaveringly to a stony-faced Judge Viktor Danilkin.
He asked the judge to think of people all over the country who "are not counting on becoming victims of police lawlessness, who have set up a business, built a house, achieved success and want to pass it on to their children, not to raiders in epaulets."
Before his arrest, Khodorkovsky financed opposition parties, which gave him clout in parliament and the power to oppose Kremlin legislation. He pursued his own energy policies independent of the Kremlin and at the time of his arrest was on the verge of selling a chunk of Yukos to a major Western oil company.
The imprisoning of Khodorkovsky heralded Putin's determination to reassert Kremlin control over politics and the economy, in particular Russia's energy sector. Yukos was largely absorbed by state oil company Rosneft, which is controlled by one of Putin's closest lieutenants.
Other wealthy businessmen quickly learned the new rules of the game, though one of the few billionaires who stayed in politics, Alexander Lebedev, came under pressure Tuesday when masked Moscow city policemen raided his National Reserve Bank.
Lebedev, who owns two British newspapers, is the financial backer of a Russian opposition paper but is not known to be in conflict with the Kremlin. His fiercest political and business rival in recent years has been Yury Luzhkov, the Moscow mayor who was ousted by Medvedev in September.
Raids on offices in which computers and documents are seized are commonplace in Russia, and in many cases corrupt police are said to act on behalf of rival businesses.
Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev are accused of stealing more than 218 million tons of oil _ worth some $27 billion _ produced by Yukos from 1998 to 2003.
Prosecutors accused them of stealing the oil from Yukos' own production units and then selling the oil abroad at higher prices. The defense called the charges ridiculous, arguing that prosecutors do not understand the oil business, including the payment of transit fees and export duties.
Khodorkovsky told Danilkin on Tuesday that his verdict was about more than just the fate of two people.
"This is not about me and Platon, or at least not only about us. It is about hope for many citizens of Russia. About hope that tomorrow the court will be able to protect their rights," he said.
One of Khodorkovsky's lawyers, Vadim Klyuvgant, urged Medvedev to fulfill his promises to strengthen the independence of Russia's courts and the rule of law.
"When or if this miracle happens, it would determine the ruling on Khodorkovsky, Lebedev and other hostages of the Yukos case," Klyuvgant told reporters. "As soon as the law would start working in this case, we would need nothing else."
Putin, though, is still the dominant leader in Russia and he has shown no leniency toward Khodorkovsky, describing him as having his hands in blood "up to the elbows." This is a reference to accusations of murder and attempted murder against one of his partners and the former Yukos security chief. Khodorkovsky has not been charged with any violent crime.
Putin's accusations, repeated in recent months, have raised fears that prosecutors are preparing a third round of charges against Khodorkovsky.
Danilkin said he would begin reading his verdict on Dec. 15, a process that could take days or even weeks after a 20-month trial.
Khodorkovsky's father said he held out hope for an acquittal.
"If I had no hope I would already have hung myself," said Boris Khodorkovsky, 76. "The only thing I'm worried about is that he doesn't think about himself, he cares only about the country."
In wrapping up his 24-minute final address, Khodorkovsky alluded to the atmosphere of intimidation that pervades Russia's judicial system.
"I can imagine perfectly well that this may not be easy for you, perhaps even frightening," Khodorkovsky told Danilkin. "I wish you courage."
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were driven from the courtroom in an armored van as a handful of supporters chanted "Freedom! Freedom!"