MOSCOW (AFP) – President Vladimir Putin called Tuesday on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to lend an additional $3 billion to Ukraine to help the ex-Soviet country pay off its debt to Russia.
“Why does the IMF not want to add these $3 billion so Ukraine can pay back?” Putin said at a government meeting, Russian news agencies reported.
Russia has been blocking the IMF’s $17.5-billion rescue plan for Ukraine, which restricts Kiev’s ability to restructure billions of dollars in debt, including some held by Moscow.
Moscow remains adamant that Ukraine should repay by December the $3 billion it issued to Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych ahead of pro-European protests that ousted him in February 2014.
Russia has said it would consider Ukraine’s failure to pay by the deadline as a default, with Finance Minister Anton Siluanov saying a “concrete action plan in case of a Ukrainian default” was being prepared.
Siluanov and Ukrainian counterpart Natalie Jaresko were not able to agree on the status of the outstanding $3 billion debt at the annual World Bank annual meetings held in the Peruvian capital of Lima last week.
The rescue funds are vital to keep Ukraine’s new pro-Western government afloat and cushion the blow of a raging pro-Russian separatist war in the east.
Putin warned the IMF against bending the rules “for a country destroying the system” and said that Moscow, as a member of the IMF, was contributing to the fund’s aid to Ukraine.
“It would seem simpler to proceed this way: provide Ukraine with these $3 billion so it can pay and that everyone is happy,” Putin said, requesting that Siluanov discuss this option with the IMF.
A source close to the Ukrainian government told AFP last week authorities were confident Moscow would not succeed in holding the IMF bailout package “hostage”.
Standard & Poor’s and Fitch credit rating agencies have already found that Ukraine had defaulted on part of its debt in spite of an agreement last August with private creditors.