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28 Mar, 2008 12:01

Billionaire will dig tunnel linking Russia & US

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has fuelled talk of a massive tunnel between Europe and America by forking out $160 MLN on the world’s largest drill. The 19-metre giant will be the first drill capable of boring a four-lane tunnel.

The project would link Russia’s far eastern Chukotka region, which Abramovich governs, with America’s Alaska.

The tunnel was first mooted by the Tsars and then in the 1990s, but both times it was dumped because of high costs.

President Vladimir Putin is said to back the latest idea, as it would open up lucrative freight routes from Europe and allow Russian gas to be easily exported.

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reports that Putin has already had secret talks about the project with Washington.

The drill, which will take German firm Herrenknecht AG two years to build, will have to bore through the 55-mile wide Bering Strait.

The giant drill will dwarf the current record-holder – a 15 metre Chinese drill being used for a Yangtze tunnel.

Drugmaking stake sold

Meanwhile, Abramovich has sold a 17% stake in drugmaker Pharmstandart.

The company has announced that key shareholders Viktor Kharitonin and Yegor Kulkin have purchased the stake, believed to be worth about $US 250 million.

The company, which raised $US 880 millions when it listed in London and Moscow last May, has pharmaceutical plants in St Petersburg, Tomsk and Nizhny Novgorod.