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Russneft's Shares Released for Sale

Authorities said on Tuesday that they had unfrozen the shares of midsized oil company Russneft, opening the way for billionaire Oleg Deripaska, to finalize a long-delayed deal to take control

Russneft's previous owner, billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev, fled to Britain in August 2007 and sold a majority stake in the company to Deripaska for more than $3 billion, excluding debts.

The country's anti-monopoly watchdog has yet to approve the deal, however.

When contacted on Tuesday, the watchdog could not say when the approval should be expected.

Media had reported that Deripaska's stake in Russneft will be more than 51 percent, while a source close to the negotiations said the billionaire was seeking 75 percent.

On Nov. 26, the Interior Ministry's Investigation Committee unfroze shares that had been frozen as a result of criminal and tax cases brought against the company, said Irina Dudukina, an official at the committee.

"The criminal case against Mikhail Gutseriyev, accused of illegal entrepreneurship, has been put on hold until we find him," Dudukina said.

Author: Ksenia Kochneva