Gazprom Sells Its Stake in Izvestia

Gazprom has sold its majority stake in the Izvestia newspaper to a firm linked to a businessman believed to be a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Gazprom-Media said in a statement Wednesday that it had ceded control over a 50.19 percent share in Izvestia to the SOGAZ insurance company.

SOGAZ is part of a group controlled by Bank Rossiya, whose chairman is Yury Kovalchuk.

Kovalchuk is thought to have close ties to Putin, and the two were part of a select group that owned a cluster of villas near St. Petersburg in the 1990s.

Izvestia had an average readership of 371,000 from May to October last year, according to market research firm TNS Gallup Media, making it one of the country's most widely read broadsheet newspapers.