Khodorkovsky faced a panel of judges with his former business partner, Platon Lebedev. The case against the two former chiefs revolves around alleged fraud and tax evasion relating to the 1994 privatization of Yukos’ Apatit fertilizer plant.\n\nIt has been suggested that the trial is a Kremlin-initiated attempt to push Khodorkovsky and his business partners out of Yukos, in response to the oil tycoon's attempts to encroach on President Vladimir Putin's power. Russian social activists have accused Mr Putin of manipulating judicial processes to suit state interests.\n\nThe outcome of the trial is expected to represent a key milestone in establishing greater state control over big business in Russia, with defense lawyers saying they believe they have little chance of winning.\n\nThe fallout of the trial has seen shares in Yukos plummet, falling 3.9 per cent yesterday and closing at their lowest level since early 2002. Sources have suggested that core Yukos shareholders may cave in and reduce their stakes in the oil major, particularly with a Moscow appeal court expected rule that Yukos must pay a $US3.4 billion bill for back taxes. Such a decision would have the potential to send the company bankrupt.