A court here today rejected a plea by Russia’s richest man, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, to be released from prison on bail pending trial on charges of committing economic crimes. The three judges at the Moscow City Court brushed aside the appeal of the oil magnate, who was allowed to speak in his own defense for the first time since he was jailed on Oct. 25 and tried to convince the panel that there was no risk he would flee. He said many people had vouched for him and he would not betray them.

“I vow that I will not hide from the investigators,” Mr. Khodorkovsky said, pointing out that he had traveled abroad during the preliminary investigation.

Mr. Khodorkovsky, who wants to be placed under house arrest, said that it was unlawful that he was being held in custody. The oil billionaire was not present in court but took part by way of a two-way video from Matrosskaya Tishina Prison, where he is being held.

The arrest last October of Mr. Khodorkovsky, whose personal worth is estimated at $8 billion, was widely regarded as a Kremlin punishment for his openly financing political parties opposed to President Vladimir V. Putin.

As the head of Yukos, Russia’s largest oil producer, Mr. Khodorkovsky had advocated increasing exports to the West and building pipelines independent of the Russian government, a position that Mr. Putin reportedly viewed as a parallel foreign oil policy. Mr. Khodorkovsky resigned from Yukos after his arrest.

Today Judge Olga Timofeyeva said: “Upon consideration of the reasons presented by lawyers . . . for changing the measures of confinement to some form other than incarceration, the court has ruled to leave the decision of the Basmanny district court unchanged.”

Valery Lahktin, the lawyer representing the Russian legal authority, told the court that Mr. Khodorkovsky should remain in jail. “There’s no reason to release Khodorkovsky,” he said. “His health allows him to remain in jail.”

On Dec. 23 a court extended the detention period for Mr. Khodorkovsky to March 25, well after the scheduled date of Russia’s presidential elections.

No date has been set for his trial on charges of fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion.

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