World News Brief, Wednesday December 29

Putin critic and oligarch convicted, drawing US condemnation and tipping Putin's return to power(+ analysis and Russia backgrounder); Double bombing in Iraq kills 17; African leaders tell Gbagbo to stand aside; South Korea president urges unity; and more

Top of the Agenda: Obama Administration Blasts Khodorkovsky Ruling

The Obama administration criticized the conviction of Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky (UPI), saying it brings the Russian legal system into question. "The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia's reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law," the White House said in a statement. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also criticized the ruling, saying it would have a "negative impact on Russia's reputation" on human rights and other issues. Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos Oil Company, and business partner Platon Lebedev were convicted by a Moscow court yesterday of embezzlement and money laundering. They already are serving prison terms for tax evasion.

Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the United States and Europe of seeking to influence the Khodorkovsky trial (Reuters) and called such efforts "unacceptable." In a statement, the Foreign Ministry also rejected as groundless Western officials' suggestions that the trial was an example of selective justice. Many assume that the outcome of the Khodorkovsky trial foretells the result of the next Russian presidential election (BBC) in 2012, with a harsh sentence suggesting that current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin continues to call all the shots and is determined to return to the Kremlin.


Khodorkovsky is the latest in a long line of Vladimir Putin opponents to fall foul of Russian leader, Simon Tisdall writes in The Guardian.

One of Khodorkovsky's lead defense attorneys argues that the conviction was a foregone conclusion (NYT).

An annotated Foreign Affairs reading list on Russian politics can be found here.


Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the most powerful of the post-Soviet oligarchs and the master of 2 percent of the world's oil production, is the most prominent prisoner in Vladimir Putin's Russia, write Susan Glasser and Peter Baker in Foreign Policy, and a symbol of the perils of challenging the Kremlin.


PACIFIC RIM: South Korea's President Urges National Unity

In a national radio address, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak says the country must unite in the face of military aggression from North Korea (BBC), arguing "the survival" of the nation is at stake.

South Korea: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit South Korea (FT) next month to show solidarity with Seoul following recent tensions with North Korea. The Pentagon says Gates will stop briefly in South Korea after visits to China and Japan.



- Two Suicide Bombers Attack in Iraq

- Drone Strikes Kill 18 in Pakistan

- African Leaders in Ultimatum to Gbagbo


This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on