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Agreement over IKEA's Russia sale could be reached in days, says Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - An agreement over the sale of IKEA's factories in Russia could be reached by the end of this year, Russia's industry minister said on Wednesday, as the Swedish furniture giant seeks to negotiate its exit from the country.

IKEA decided to close its shops in Russia after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine in February in what it said was a 'special military operation'. Many other western companies - from energy producers to food and clothing chains - have left Russia.

Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said negotiations were ongoing, but declined to do disclose who the potential buyers were.

"IKEA aims to reach an agreement in principle with the buyer or buyers by the end of this year," Manturov said in an interview with the TASS news agency, published on Wednesday.

IKEA, the world's biggest furniture brand, shut down its Russian stores in March and said it would sell factories, close offices and reduce its 15,000-strong workforce in Russia. It reopened for a brief online fire sale during the summer.

"The sales activities of our factories in Russia are proceeding according to plan," IKEA said in a statement. "We have agreed with potential buyers not to share any details with respect to them and the integrity of the sales process."

IKEA earlier this year said it expected the process of finding new ownership to be finalised in 2023.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Olga Popova, additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)