MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian mining giant Nornickel plans to increase the equity holdings of employees and other individuals to collectively comprise 25% of the company, up from 10% now, its top shareholder Vladimir Potanin said on Saturday.

Potanin told RBC TV that the change would be made in a 10-year programme called “Digital Investor” that would begin in 2023 and include digital financial assets and lock-up periods.

“When Norilsk Nickel was privatised about 25% of shares were owned by employees,” he said in an interview, referring to the company’s privatisation in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union.

“I would like to recover this historical justice and make sure that 25% of Nornickel’s shares are returned to the people, including employees.”

He did not give further details about the plan or how the equity holdings would be increased.

Potanin also said Nornickel, the world’s top palladium and refined nickel producer, was preparing to reorient itself more towards Asian markets, to guard against any change in the West’s sanctions policy and clients trying to “twist our arms”.

Nornickel has not been directly targeted by the Western sanctions imposed on Moscow since it sent thousands of troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“Some of our partners are trying to revise the terms of existing contracts in their favour, trying to reduce the volume of purchases for the upcoming period, imposing on themselves a kind of self-sanctions, moving away from goods of Russian origin as much as possible,” the Potanin said.

In the first seven months of this year, Europe accounted for 50% of Nornickel’s sales and the United States around 20%, he added.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt, Anastasia Lyrchikova and Alexander Marrow; Editing by Louise Heavens and Pravin Char)