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Putin’s Billionaire Ally Buys Half of Tele2 Russia Operator

President Vladimir Putin’s billionaire ally Yury Kovalchuk is buying half of Tele2 Russia Holding AB with partners, seeking to make the wireless carrier a stronger competitor to the country’s three dominant operators.

Kovalchuk’s Bank Rossiya and partners including steelmaking billionaire Alexey Mordashov bought 50 percent of the business from VTB Group, a state-run bank. VTB, which bought the Russian unit of Sweden’s Tele2 AB for $2.4 billion this year, said in its statement today that the selling price for the stake was “in line with expectations.”