Soyuzplodimport, the Russian vodka company, currently embroiled in a legal battle with the state over trademark rights, is planning to sponsor the Russian Olympic Committee.

The Moscow Times reported today that Soyuzplodimport is to sign a US$500,000 sponsorship deal with the committee in early March.

The move comes after Russia's poor showing at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Soyuzplodimport is reported as saying in  a statement.

Company spokesman Sergei Boguslavsky added that the lack of training facilities in Russia was a "disgrace on the part of the state."

The $500,000 sponsorship is for one year only, after which a fresh decision will be taken on whether to continue the funding.