MOSCOW, April 19 - RAPSI. The Moscow Commercial Court has suspended until April 26 its hearing of the Terra publishing house's $254.2 million lawsuit against the Astrel publisher.

Terra sued Astrel, part of the AST publishing company, for allegedly illegally publishing the novels of the late Russian sci-fi writer Alexander Belyayev.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit in August 2009. It maintained that it owned the exclusive rights to Belyayev's novels. Meanwhile, Astrel stated that the copyright protection term had expired and it had published the novels legally.

The defendant requested the court on Thursday to suspend the case on the grounds that the parties are negotiating a settlement.

Astrel's lawyer explained that the court has already charged it 8.5 million rubles under another lawsuit filed by Terra. However, the plaintiff said it sought to recover compensation for the illegal distribution of Belyayev's novels in that lawsuit, while the present case seeks to recover compensation for publishing.

Founded in 1990, AST is one of the largest publishing companies in Russia. It accounts for 20 percent of the Russian book market, according to its website. AST publishes over 800 new books monthly.