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Russian court delays hearing in BP appeal against $3 billion claim

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court postponed on Friday hearing in an appeal against a decision to award more than $3 billion in damages against British oil major BP brought by minority shareholders in its Russian venture TNK-BP , a lawyer for BP said.

The decision to postpone the hearings was made a day after the Soviet-born billionaires who share ownership of Anglo-Russian oil company TNK-BP with partner BP declared an end to a boardroom stalemate.

The announced agreement would allow the partners to focus on finalizing the $55 billion sale of TNK-BP to Russian state oil major Rosneft .

The hearing in the Siberian city of Omsk was postponed to December 14 after the plaintiff's lawyers asked for letters between the directors of TNK-BP Limited, the company's parent entity.

"The plaintiff's request is aimed at protraction of the process. Obviously, the plaintiff's representatives fear that the court would thwart the previous decision of the lower court," Konstantin Lukoyanov, BP's lawyer told Reuters.

The minority shareholders, led by Andrey Prokhorov, claim TNK-BP suffered financial losses when it was excluded last year from a proposed exploration alliance between BP and Rosneft.

Dmitry Chepurenko, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, confirmed they had asked for the letters.

"We need the information related to the time of the (last year's) deal between Rosneft and BP," he said.

In July, an arbitration court in the Siberian city of Tyumen awarded 100 billion roubles ($3.17 billion) in damages in the case brought by a group who own shares in TNK-BP's listed subsidiary TNK-BP Holding.

BP later lodged an appeal with a higher court in the city of Omsk.

($1 = 31.5512 Russian roubles) (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by James Jukwey)

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