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MOSCOW: Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel has been facing transport and other problems after the West slapped unprecedented sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict, its chief said on Saturday.

Nornickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel, faced hurdles in shipping its palladium due to restrictions on air travel to Russia, Vladimir Potanin, the company’s CEO and co-owner said an interview to business daily RBK.

“But we were able to organise the supply through alternative channels,” Potanin told business daily RBK.

Prices for metals including palladium and nickel are at record levels as the West pummels Russia, a major supplier, with economic sanctions following President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops to Ukraine.

Potanin said the company also faced “logistical problems due to the refusal of a number of European ports to handle our cargo.”

But he said that those problems were “not yet critical.”

“Despite all the hostile rhetoric, our products are still in demand,” he said.

The metals tycoon said that Nornickel was developing a way of redirecting European and American supplies to China and other countries that had not sanctioned Russia.

“But we are not there yet and we do not expect that this will be the case,” he said.

This week the Kremlin-friendly tycoon criticised Moscow’s plans to confiscate assets of foreign enterprises leaving the country, likening them to Bolshevik tactics.

In the interview, Potanin said he expected many of the departing companies to return to Russia in the future, adding that their exit had been driven by emotion.

On February 24, Putin ordered Russian troops to pour into pro-Western Ukraine, triggering unprecedented Western sanctions against Moscow and sparking an exodus of foreign corporations including H&M, McDonald’s and Ikea.

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