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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IMF Team Reviews Economy




An International Monetary Fund mission began an assessment Tuesday of Russia's economic performance, which is vital to Moscow's chances of quickly securing badly-needed new loans.


The IMF mission was due to meet Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on Tuesday evening and hold talks with Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin on Wednesday during its two-day review.


Russian officials are confident the IMF's board of directors will approve the release of the first part of a $4.5 billion loan, perhaps as early as July, almost a year after Russia sank into economic crisis and the IMF suspended lending to Moscow.


The money would help Russia meet debt payments and open the way to talks on restructuring its huge debt. The loan could also reduce the risk of social tensions as Russia prepares for parliamentary and presidential elections in the next 12 months.


"The release of the next tranche of IMF credits for Russia could be decided as soon as July," Stepashin said at a conference of officials from the Federal Security Service, or FSB.


But he said the situation in Russia remained difficult and made clear stability would be tested by December's parliamentary election and the presidential poll expected in June next year.


President Boris Yeltsin said in an interview this month that Russia could get by without new loans but its economy would face strains and pressing socioeconomic problems would go unsolved.


Many government officials say Russia has done enough to secure the $4.5 billion loan over 18 months. Most, but not all, of the revenue-raising laws sought by the IMF as the condition for releasing new funds have been passed by parliament.


Mikhail Zadornov, Russia's envoy to the IMF, said some amendments may have to be made to the program agreed with the IMF but he remained optimistic about the new loan.


"I hope this will be the last round of talks before the meeting of the board of directors of the IMF and the World Bank," he said at a news conference.


Zadornov said currency stability would be consolidated by a loan deal. The ruble was about six to the dollar last August but, after sharp falls, has steadied at a rate around 24.


The ruble was again steady Tuesday as a less restricted trade system began in efforts to meet IMF rules on currency convertibility.