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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yukos Pair Told to Read Case More Quickly

A court has set a tight deadline for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev to read the voluminous cases against them on money-laundering charges. Defense lawyers said the move was an attempt to put the two jailed former Yukos owners on trial anew before March's presidential election.

The court in the Siberian town of Chita, where Khodorkovsky and Lebedev await trial, ruled Friday that Lebedev must complete reading his case by Dec. 22. A day earlier, it set the same deadline for Khodorkovsky.

The men, who are both serving eight-year sentences on charges of fraud and tax evasion, have to read evidence against them in separate money-laundering cases. The initial politically charged cases against them, brought in 2003, were widely seen as part of an effort by President Vladimir Putin to rein in the country's oligarchs.

Prosecutors complained to the court earlier in the week that the defendants were trying to drag out the time before the trial by reading their cases too slowly and by refusing to study them on weekends, Interfax reported.

Each of the men has to read 130 volumes that together number more than 30,000 pages. They began reading the cases in February, but had a pause of two months because prosecutors were battling a Moscow court decision to move the defendants to Moscow for a trial.

Khodorkovsky has yet to read 70 volumes, more than he did over the past months. Lebedev has 40 volumes remaining.

By hurrying the defendants, prosecutors could try to start the hearing before the presidential election, said lawyer Yury Shmidt, who represents Khodorkovsky.

Yelena Liptser, a lawyer for Lebedev, said she saw no reason in the urgency, adding it was hardly possible to finish the reading by the deadline.

Lebedev will appeal the ruling while Khodorkovsky will not, their lawyers said.

After being convicted in 2005, Khodorkovsky was sent to a prison camp in the Chita region, while Lebedev was sent to one in the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district in the Arctic. Lebedev and Khodorkovsky were later both moved to a detention unit in Chita pending the second trial.