After almost a decade of indecision, within the next few weeks most of Russia’s public switched telephone network may well have been privatized. A holding company called Svyazinvest owns a 50% share of all of Russia’s regional telephone companies. In November last year it was announced that the Russian government had turned down an offer by N M Rothschild & Co to handle the sale of 25% of Svyazinvest on international markets. Instead the sale would be handled domestically by Russia’s Most Bank and AlphaBank. When other major state assets were sold off in 1995, the banks handling the sales not only took part in the auctions, but they also sometimes won the auctions. This decision also looks very much like the valuable parts of the Russian state being handed out to the coterie of tycoons which now wield huge financial and political power. Bids for a 25% stake in Svyazinvest closed on January 15.