Warner Music International has struck an exclusive licensing agreement which allows Russian independent music firm Nikitin to market, manufacture and distribute the major's physical product.

The deal, unveiled today, covers new works and catalog in both CD and DVD formats, and is effective across Russia and the majority of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Nikitin has authority to print and press Cyrillic Russian versions of WMI discs, using only those plants approved by the IFPI.

Both parties have agreed to seek out mutual opportunities, including synchronizations, branded and third party compilations.

The Russian firm will also import premium-priced international CD and DVD product for high-end retail across the region.

Through the arrangement, Nikitin will also exclusively collate public performance fees for Warner Music's recordings from the IFPI approved collection society, Russian Phonographic Association.

"Alongside our efforts to foster the growth in digital sales," comments John Reid, vice chairman, WMI, and president, Warner Music Europe, "our partnership with Nikitin will be crucial in accelerating the provision of quality, legal alternatives to piracy."

"Nikitin's' scale, ambition and expertise in nurturing the legitimate Russian music market make them an ideal ally for us," he adds. "We are excited about the new opportunities this agreement offers Warner Music and its artists."

WMI sees the development as the latest effort to beef up its presence in Eastern Europe. In August 20006, the music major clinched a deal in Russia's nascent legal mobile-music market with local network operator VimpelCom and its new music platform.