MOSCOW, January 26 - RAPSI. Former YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev remain steadfast in denying their guilt and will not appeal to the president for pardon, lawyers Vadim Klyuvgant and Yelena Liptzer told the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI/ on Wednesday.

President Dmitry Medvedev told students at the Moscow State University's School of Journalism on Wednesday that he felt sympathy for Khodorkovsky, but noted that the businessman is deemed guilty until the judgment remains in force. Medvedev also said that in some cases he can grant a pardon to convicts found guilty in even such grave crimes, but the convict must submit a request for pardon first.

"Let me remind you that we have challenged the district courts' judgments. Both Khodorkovsky and Lebedev flatly deny their guilt and for that reason they are not entitled to plea for pardon," said Yelena Liptzer, who represents Platon Lebedev.

Meanwhile, Khodorkovsky defense attorney Vadim Klyuvgant told RAPSI/ that although the president cunningly said he needed Khodorkovsky's written plea to grant him pardon, the law allows the president to pardon a convict even without an official plea.

The YUKOS case has been one of the most high profile in Russia in recent years. In the early 2000s, the authorities accused the executives of YUKOS, then the country's largest oil company, of economic crimes. YUKOS then went bankrupt while its assets were transferred to the state Rosneft. Many in the West believe the case against YUKOS was politically driven, but Moscow flatly denies the charges.

In 2005, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. In late 2010, a Moscow district court sentenced them to 14 years in prison for oil theft and money laundering. They were expected to be released in 2017, taking into account the time they had already served for their convictions from their first trial in 2005. However, on May 24, the Moscow City Court reduced their sentences by one year. They now may be released in 2016.