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Khodorkovsky judge will not press charges against whistleblower aide

RIA Novosti

16:53 16/02/2011 MOSCOW, February 16 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian judge who sentenced former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to six more years in prison at his second trial has said he will not seek the prosecution of an aide who claimed the verdict was ordered from above.

Judge Viktor Danilkin described the allegations as slander. The trial of Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev was widely condemned as politically motivated.

In a sensational interview with the liberal news portal, assistant Natalya Vasilyeva said Danilkin, who in December extended the two men's jail sentences until 2017, had been under constant control from the Moscow City Court during the 20-month trial.

Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova described Vasilyeva's allegations as a "provocation" in advance of a review of an appeal of the verdict.

"I will not press for her prosecution right now," Danilkin told RIA Novosti on Wednesday. "No actions will be taken against her before the verdict I delivered is reviewed."

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev had been nearing the end of their eight-year sentences for fraud and tax evasion from their 2005 trial.

Vasilyeva said she did not expect to stay in her post after the interview but Danilkin said the decision was totally hers.

"I didn't expect her to accuse me of committing a grave crime. I think it will be difficult for Vasilyeva to continue working at the court."

He said however that there was no question she would be sacked.

"She can hand in her notice or stay."

The trial was widely viewed as a political vendetta by Russia's powerful prime minister, Vladimir Putin, whom Khodorkovsky challenged by funding liberal opposition parties in the early 2000s.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have always maintained that the charges against them are false.

A documentary about Khodorkovsky became an unexpected hit at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this week.

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