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Kyrgyz Police Seize Russian-Owned Phone Operator

(RFE/RL) 15 December 2005 -- A major Russian telecommunications firm says that the Kyrgyz police have seized the office of a Kyrgyz mobile phone company that it owns, effectively leaving most of Kyrgyzstan's mobile users without service.

Kanat Asylov, a lawyer for the Bitel phone company, says he will sue those responsible for seizing the company’s office in Bishkek.

The shutdown comes amid an ownership dispute between Russia's OAO Mobile TeleSystems, known as MTS, and a rival Rezervspetsmet, a major shareholder in Vimpelcom, Russia's second-largest mobile operator. Rezervspetsmet is reportedly affiliated to Russia's Alfa Group.

MTS says it has bought a controlling stake in Bitel. But Rezervspetsmet said on 14 December that Kyrgyz authorities have given it ownership rights over Bitel and is responsible for the seizure.


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