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An East Siberian court ruled on Thursday to extend pre-trial custody
An East Siberian court ruled on Thursday to extend pre-trial custody until November 2 for Platon Lebedev, a business associate of jailed Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Last week, Russian prosecutors filed new charges against Lebedev, 41, and Khodorkovsky, 45, of money laundering and oil theft. Both men are currently serving eight years for fraud and tax evasion charges.

In December 2006 Lebedev and Khodorkovsky were transferred from a prison to a pre-trial detention center pending a further investigation into allegations that between 1998 and 2004 they were involved in the theft of 350 million metric tons of oil and laundered $28.3 billion.

Their current remand period was due to end on August 2.

Both men have maintained their innocence throughout, with Khodorkovsky claiming his conviction was political and in retaliation for his support for Russia's opposition movement.

The jailing of Lebedev and Khodorkovsky, head of what was once Russia's largest independent oil producer, has been widely criticized in the West and seen as part of the Kremlin's drive to regain lucrative energy assets.

On July 11 a Siberian court also extended Khodorkovsky's pre-trial custody until November 2.

And in a separate move, lawyers representing the former oligarch filed an application with an East Siberian court Wednesday requesting his early release.

Yury Schmidt, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky, stressed that the application was "not an appeal for a pardon" and that it was not an "admission of guilt."


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