* Judge orders review of Khodorkovsky appeal
* Lawyers cautious on chances of lifting conviction
* Former oil tycoon fell out with Putin, Kremlin
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW, July 24 Jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail
Khodorkovsky won a rare legal victory on Tuesday when one of
Russia's most senior judges ordered a court to review his appeal
against his conviction on multibillion-dollar theft and money
Lawyers for Khodorkovsky were cautious about the ruling and
said it was still unclear whether it was a technicality or a
real advance that could lead to a reversal of his conviction.
Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, fell out with
Vladimir Putin's Kremlin and is serving a 13-year prison term
near the Arctic Circle.
He was jailed in 2003 and is due for release in 2016 after
two politically charged trials brought convictions on financial
crimes charges linked to his now-defunct oil company, Yukos.
He and his former business partner Platon Lebedev appealed
against their December 2010 convictions in the second trial, but
the Moscow City Court rejected that appeal last year and a
Supreme Court judge upheld that decision.
The chairman of Russia's Supreme Court On Tuesday overruled
that rejection and sent the appeal back to the Moscow court,
said Supreme Court spokesman Pavel Odintsov.
Khodorkovsky's lawyers said they needed to know more details
about Supreme Court chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev's decision.
"Up until now all courts and judges in this case have issued
only shameful and illegal decisions made by others," his legal
team said on the website khodorkovsky.ru, suggesting court
decisions have been handed down from the Kremlin. "We have no
illusions. We will see what comes."
Putin has repeatedly criticised Khodorkovsky, suggesting he
was behind murders and that the sentence is lenient. Many rights
activists believe it is highly unlikely he will be freed before
One of Khodorkovsky's lawyers, Yuri Shmidt, said the judge's
decision could have applied to only part of the Moscow court's
ruling or could involve technicalities that would not affect the
"This decision alone tells us nothing," said the lawyer who
led Khodorkovsky's defence in the second trial, Vadim Klyuvgant,
according to the Interfax news agency.
Odintsov declined to comment on details or potential
Supporters say Khodorkovsky, 49, was prosecuted in a
Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to punish him for challenging
Putin, then in his first stint as president. They say it was
also aimed to warn tycoons against involvement in politics and
increase state control over lucrative oil revenues.
After his arrest and jailing, Yukos was bankrupted by back
tax claims and auctioned off with its main production assets
ending up in the hands of state-run Rosneft, now
Russia's biggest producer and headed by close Putin ally Igor
(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Alissa de
Carbonnel and Andrew Heavens)