Russia 'Not Considering' Belarus Loan

Russia is not interested in lending Belarus 100 billion rubles ($3.05 billion) as part of a move to carry out bilateral trade in rubles, Deputy Finance Minister Dmitry Pankin said Friday.

Earlier in the week, Interfax quoted a source in the Belarussian government as saying that Minsk had asked Moscow for a 100 billion ruble loan as a pre-condition for switching to Russian rubles in bilateral trade. The Belarussian currency is also called the ruble.

Asked about the request from Belarus for the new loan, Pankin told reporters in a briefing that "they had the figure of 100 billion [rubles] in the letter -- we are not considering it."

The cash would have been in addition to a $2 billion stabilization loan from Russia last year.

Belarus, which accounts for almost 5 percent of Russian exports, devalued its ruble by 20 percent on Jan. 1.

Earlier, the Belarussian Central Bank switched to the dollar peg from a previous Russian ruble link. It has talked of fixing the domestic currency to a basket of the dollar, euro and ruble sometime this year.

Interfax reported that Belarus needed the Russian loan to have enough rubles inside the country to guarantee timely payments for Russian imports.