Apple isn’t ignoring Russia – it just hasn’t had time to clinch an iPhone distribution deal for the country yet, said Apple boss Steve Jobs speaking to CNBC last week.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs told CNBC: "We just didn’t have a chance to close a deal with Russia. And I think you’ll see agreements happen later this year."

Now, reports out of Moscow this morning suggest local networks may be in talks with Apple to introduce the device in Russia, a country where jailbroken first-generation iPhones command as much as $1,000 each, with around 20,000 units smuggled into Russia every month, according to local analysts

Local networks s, Mobile TeleSystems and MegaFone have both been described as being in talks with Apple, but both may be trounced by second-largest network, VimpelCom, as that network moves to switch on its 3G network in Russia this year.

Apple’s so far failure to enter Russia has seen explosive grey market sales of the device, but many anticipate the company will put more technical hurdles to unlocking inside iPhone 3G, not least the demand customers sign a contract with the network they buy the phone from at the point and time of purchase. "It’s looking pretty bleak for unlockers," said John McLaughlin, founder of Uniquephones.com, a company which sells unlock codes for mobiles.

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