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VEON offers mobile messaging app in five markets, including Russia

FRANKFURT, July 19 (Reuters) - Global telecom operator VEON said on Wednesday it was making progress in its strategy to reinvent itself as an online player by introducing its messaging and mobile services app in four new markets, including its largest in Russia and Pakistan.

The messaging app, which is designed to compete with the likes of Facebook Inc's WhatsApp and Rakuten Inc's Viber, offers free services to customers via its mobile network without users incurring data charges as other apps do.

It was introduced late last year to customers of its Wind Tre joint venture, which VEON, formerly known as Vimpelcom, runs in Italy with CK Hutchison of Hong Kong. Two more markets where VEON will offer the app are Ukraine and Georgia.

Italian users will receive an upgraded version of the messaging app later this week. (Reporting By Eric Auchard; Editing by Maria Sheahan)