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UPDATE 1-Russia's NLMK says Q2 core earnings up 31 percent year/year

(Adds background, analyst comment)

MOSCOW, July 27 (Reuters) - Russia's biggest steelmaker NLMK said on Thursday its second-quarter core earnings increased 31 percent year-on-year, supported by higher prices for its products, but falling short of market expectations.

NLMK, controlled by Russian billionaire Vladimir Lisin, said its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) totalled $603 million in the April-June quarter, up from $460 million in the same period last year.

Russian steelmakers such as NLMK and its closest rival, Evraz, struggled over the past two years as world steel prices plumbed 11-year lows and Russia's economic crisis sapped domestic demand.

But their prospects have improved this year due to higher metals prices and a nascent recovery in the Russian economy. NLMK's core earnings more than doubled in the first quarter.

Revenue totalled $2.5 billion, up 36 percent year-on-year, while net profit jumped 84 percent to $342 million, partially supported by the stronger rouble exchange rate, the company said.

"Results are slightly lower versus expectations, but we believe that current market focus should be on (the third quarter), which should improve due to lower raw material prices and rising steel," BCS analysts said in a note.

NLMK reported earlier this month a 3 percent fall in second-quarter output from a year earlier to 4.14 million tonnes because of planned maintenance. (Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Dale Hudson)