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    MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Prosecutor General's Office has appealed to the Basmanny Court of Moscow to limit the time for Mikhail Khodorkovsky's lawyers to study his case to May 15.

    Prosecutor Valery Lakhtin said at a court session on Friday that Mr. Khodorkovsky and his defense "are obviously protracting the study of the case." He recalled that the indictee and his lawyers began studying the 227-volume case on November 25, 2003.

    According to the Prosecutor's Office, as of April 20, Mr. Khodorkovsky had read 209 volumes, and his lawyers 1-109 volumes. Meanwhile, the lawyers copied 203 volumes, said the prosecutor.

    According to Mr. Lakhtin, the defendant and his lawyers are not studying the case consistently. Mr. Khodorkovsky's health condition allows him to study his case.

    The former Yukos head in turn said that he did not care about the deadline for the case study.

    "Whether it is today or in a month, nothing will change," said Mr. Khodorkovsky.

    However, he emphasized that he could not but react to the Prosecutor General's petition, because it affected his reputation.

    "On my own initiative, I didn't miss a single day for studying the case. I would like the court to get rid of the phrase that I am protracting the study of the case," said Mr. Khodorkovsky.

    One of his lawyers, Genrikh Padva has asked the court to turn down the Prosecutor General's petition.

    "We are interested in having the case forwarded to court as soon as possible," said the lawyer. Thus, he says, there is no ground for the court to limit the time for the study of the case.

    The lawyer also recalled that on March 19 the court extended the term of Mr. Khodorkovsky's custody till May 25. Mr. Padva said this was prompted by the need to study the case.

    "If the prosecutors believe that he [Khodorkovsky] should finish studying the case before May 15, then why keep him in custody till May 25?" stressed the lawyer.

    The Prosecutor's Office is accusing Mr. Khodorkovsky on seven articles of the Russian Criminal Code. In particular, he is being charged with fraud, deliberate refusal to implement the court ruling and also tax evasion.

    Mr. Khodorkovsky has pleaded not guilty on all these points of indictment. On November 3, 2003 he resigned from the post of Yukos CEO.

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