Mikhail Gorbachev has directly appealed to Bill Gates to intervene in the case of a Russian headteacher accused of using illegal software at his school. Despite this, it appears Microsoft will continue to take a more hands-off approach.

Teacher Aleksandr Ponosov says the unlicenced copies of Windows were pre-installed on PCs he bought for the school. Russian authorities are attempting to crack down on the largely-illegal Russian software trade as the country tries to join the World Trade Organisation .

The New York Times reports that Microsoft is leaving the case up to the Russian courts: "Mr. Ponosov's case is a criminal case and as such was initiated by the public prosecutor's office in Russia."

Former Russian leader and Nobel Prize winner Gorbachev has posted the open letter on the site of his charity. "A teacher, who has dedicated his life to the education of children and who receives a modest salary...is threatened with detention in Siberian prison camps," it reads. The letter calls for Microsoft to drop its complaint.

Microsoft appears to have washed its hands of the letter, attributing the entire case to the Russian authorities. The corporation also says it "respects the Russian government's position" on intellectual property rights.

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin criticised the case last week in an address during his annual news conference.