ITC, which is owned by Russia's richest man Mr Vladimir Lisin, has offered to pay Roubles 50bn ($US 1.61bn) for the stake. In a statement, RZD said it will now propose to its board of directors and the Russian government that a direct deal should be done with ITC.

According to Reuters, a second Russian bidder Sistema was not allowed to participate in the tender.

Last October ITC paid Roubles 125.5bn for 75% minus two shares in the company in the largest transfer of rail assets to the private sector since RZD revived its privatisation programme in 2010.