Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former oil tycoon who has been behind bars since 2003, lost an appeal of his second conviction for fraud Tuesday, reinforcing the widespread belief here that rule of law remains a distant objective in Russia.

Khodorkovsky, and his business partner and fellow defendant Platon Lebedev, had a year trimmed from their sentences, however, and they can now expect freedom in 2016.

The two men were convicted in 2005 of tax fraud at their company, Yukos Oil. Then, as the end of their sentences approached, they were tried again and in December were convicted on embezzlement charges. Khodorkovsky had made an enemy of Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin, and the charges were widely seen as politically motivated and legally dubious.

“Either overturn the sentence and put an end to this disgrace,” Khodorkovsky told the three appellate judges Tuesday, “or you will join those criminals who spit on the law.”

Earlier this year, an assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin, who rendered the December verdict, said his ruling was ordered by the judge’s superiors. The assistant quit before she was fired, and the judge denied her assertions. Last month, another former court official corroborated the assistant’s version.

Jailed Russian ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands in the defendant's box during a court session in Moscow. A Russian appeals court upheld a multibillion-dollar theft and money laundering conviction against Khodorkovsky. (DENIS SINYAKOV/REUTERS)

Khodorkovsky’s lawyers said they planned to take their appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. A British member of Parliament from the Labour Party, Chris Bryant, said Tuesday’s decision highlighted the failings of rule of law in Russia and urged British authorities to consider visa sanctions against Russian officials.