“Dispute between private companies”

Neither Norwegian of Russian authorities wish to interfere in the Telenor-Vimpelcom row.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that Norwegian telecom group Telenor’s multi-billion-dollar legal battle in Russia must be solved by the Russian justice system, Reuters reports.

“We will continue to express support for Telenor’s main stance, but this is a dispute between private companies that has to be solved by the justice system,” Stoltenberg told at a news conference when asked how his government can help Telenor.

Stoltenberg met with Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev last month to discuss the case.

Stoltenberg said he had “very good and thorough” discussions with the Russian leaders but since the talks took place Russian bailiffs have nevertheless pressed ahead with the sale of Telenor’s stake in Vimpelcom.

As BarentsObserver reported, Telenor’s 15,3 million VimpelCom shares, or more than 25 percent of the company, were frozen by bailiffs in March as collateral against a USD 1,7 billion damages claim. Those damages were awarded by a Siberian court. Telenor claims the court is corrupt and acted illegally.

When asked if the Telenor case affected his view on doing business in Russia, Stoltenberg said: “I will not give any general investment advice towards Russia. Each company has to evaluate the risk of investing in a country like Russia.”

Nor has the Russian government any plans to interfere in the dispute between Telenor and Vimpelcom, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov says according to Dagbladet.

Shuvalov does not see the dispute as a landmark test for Russia’s investment climate and Telenor should have thought twice before becoming Alfa’s partner in Vimpelcom.

“They chose this partner themselves and they knew very well whom they would be dealing with. This (Alfa) is a very powerful, mighty group of shareholders, which will defend its interests by all means, including unpleasant but legal ones,” Shuvalov said. “This group will always have difficulties with foreign partners as soon as they start feeling that their interests have been violated,” he added.

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