The former leader of the Soviet empire is reaching out to computer czar Bill Gates, pleading with him to "show mercy" toward a poor school teacher accused of software piracy.

Mikhail Gorbachev asked the Microsoft founder to show leniency on Alexander Ponosov, a teacher from the Urals who had used pirated software in the classroom, according to the Reuters news agency.

The request came through an open letter on the former U.S.S.R. president's Web site.

“A teacher, who has dedicated his life to the education of children and who receives a modest salary that does not bear comparison with the salaries of even regular staff in your company, is threatened with detention in Siberian prison camps,” the letter read.

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The letter asked that the complaint against Ponosov be withdrawn as the teacher did not realize he was committing a crime.

”This noble step will be enthusiastically received by all those in Russia who use Microsoft products," the letter stated.