The Russian government set a \"negative precedent\" when it launched a share buyback program by the the state-controlled bank VTB, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin said on Thursday. The lender, which is 75.5 percent owned by the government, announced the plans on March 2, exactly a month after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told the bank to buy back the shares from investors who lost out in its 2007 initial public offering. Kudrin, who resigned after a public falling out with President Dmitry Medvedev in September last year, said the move infringes on the equal rights of shareholders. \"The government established a negative precedent by this decision,\" he told journalists in Moscow. VTB CEO Andrei Kostin has valued the scheme at 15 to 18 billion rubles ($500 to 600 million). The bank will buy out shares at the offering price of 13.6 kopeks, almost double the current price. However, Kudrin said the rights of some shareholders were \"limited\" because the offer only applies to investors who acquired stock when VTB went public and still held them as of February 1 this year.