Russia has told the West to 'mind its own business after it was accused of influencing the trial of an opponent of Vladimir Putin. Moscow angrily dismissed condemnation from around the world over the conviction of former oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky for money laundering in what is seen as a politically inspired trial. Prime Minister Mr Putin branded the former tycoon a thief who should stay in jail, just days before a judge delivered a guilty verdict. Yesterday the Russian foreign ministry said the case was a matter for Russias courts and said U.S. suggestions that the verdict resulted from 'selective justice were groundless. The United States and European nations said the verdict raised doubts about the Kremlin's commitment to the rule of law and human rights, and warned they were closely watching the case. Referring to comments from Washington and European Union capitals about the trial, the ministry said: 'We would like to once again underscore that this issue relates to the competence of the court system of the Russian Federation.' 'Attempts to apply pressure on the court are unacceptable,' it said in a statement. 'We are counting on everyone to mind his own business -- both at home and in the international arena.' A judge edged on Tuesday towards sentencing Khodorkovsky, who has been in jail since 2003, ploughing through reading out a 250-page guilty verdict which has renewed doubts on the rule of law in Russia. Judge Viktor Danilkin is expected to hand down the sentence on Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, after he has finished reading out the verdict sometime later this week. The judge found Khodorkovsky guilty of money laundering and a multibillion-dollar oil theft, a verdict that his lawyers and Western governments said smacked of political meddling in the judicial system. Khodorkovsky's defence team has alleged government pressure on the judge and vowed an appeal. Prosecutors are seeking an additional six-year prison term for Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos oil company CEO who is 10 months from the end of an eight-year sentence imposed after a previous trial during Vladimir Putin's 2000-2008 presidency. One of the young tycoons who built fortunes after the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse, Khodorkovsky fell out with Putin's Kremlin after airing corruption allegations, challenging state control over oil exports and funding opposition parties. Putin is now prime minister but remains Russia's most powerful man. His successor, Dmitry Medvedev, has made freeing Russia's courts of political influence and corruption, along modernising the economy, two of the top goals on his presidency. Police blocked the streets within 100 metres of Moscow's Khamovnichesky court on Tuesday, a day after hundreds of protestors gathered outside, calling for Khodorkovsky's release and shouting 'Shame'. Police detained about 30 demonstrators. In the second trial, prosecutors said Khodorkovsky stole $27 billion in oil from Yukos subsidiaries through pricing schemes and laundered some of the money, charges his lawyers dismissed as an absurd pretext to keep him behind bars. (The Daily Mail)