Dozens of armed police raided the offices of Kyrgyzstan’s largest mobile operator Bitel yesterday, shutting down the company’s network for five hours. The events came amid a raging ownership dispute between Russian mobile operator Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), which claimed earlier this week to have bought a controlling stake in Bitel, and Russian-registered company Rezervspetsmet. MTS reportedly bought a 51% share of the Kyrgyz cellco from Kazakh finance house Alliance Capital for USD150 million on Monday, but Rezervspetsmet claimed a decision on Wednesday by the Kyrgyz Supreme Court gave it ownership rights and said it was behind the raid, which saw police and special forces storming Bitel’s headquarters and arresting a senior manager and an MTS official. Rezervspetsmet has been linked to Russian conglomerate the Alfa Group, although Alfa – blamed by MTS for the raid – denies any affiliation. A spokesman for Alliance Capital said that Bitel’s GSM network went down five minutes after the break-in. MTS said that it would not ask Alliance for its money back and added that it was considering launching legal action in Russia against Alfa, a major shareholder in MTS’s biggest rival, Vimpelcom.