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Russian court rejects Telenor's appeal to suspend $1.7 bln ruling

MOSCOW, March 24 (RIA Novosti) - The West Siberian District Federal Arbitration Court rejected on Tuesday an appeal by Norway's telecoms giant Telenor to suspend a court ruling to pay $1.728 billion to Russian communications operator VimpelCom.

Telenor is a core shareholder in VimpelCom, which operates cell phone networks in Russia and other former Soviet republics under the Beeline brand.

"The court did not take our arguments into account and rejected the appeal," said Anna Ivanova-Galitsyna, Telenor Russia director for external relations, adding that the company was trying to find the most effective mechanisms to protect its investment.

In late February, the 8th Arbitration Appeals Court in Omsk in West Siberia passed a ruling obliging Telenor to pay $1.728 billion to VimpelCom. The ruling followed a lawsuit filed by a VimpelCom minority shareholder, Farimex (the British Virgin Islands, 0.002% of VimpelCom's stock), which accused the Norwegian telecoms operator of delaying a deal to purchase Ukrainian cell phone operator Ukrainian Radio Systems.

In 2004-2005, Telenor resisted VimpelCom's attempt to enter the Ukrainian market and buy into cell phone operator Ukrainian Radio Systems, as it put VimpelCom in direct competition with the Norwegian company's other interests in Ukraine.

"The Omsk Court's decision contains grave substantive and procedural errors, and we have no intention of paying any claimed damages based on this ruling," Jan Edvard Thygesen, executive vice president and head of Telenor's Central and Eastern European operations, said after the February ruling.

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