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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Helms Calls for U.S. to Block $485M Loan Deal to Russia

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms on Thursday moved to block a $485 million loan refinancing package for Russia from the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton in a protest against the Kremlin's continuing crackdown in Chechnya.

"For the past 10 months, Russia has conducted an indiscriminate war in Chechnya that has killed countless thousands of innocent people and has left hundreds of thousands of others homeless," the North Carolina republican wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Helms, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has the authority to block such an expenditure without further congressional approval.

The cash-strapped Russian government is attempting to restructure billions of dollars of Soviet-era debt.

In advance of Clinton's summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin this month, the U.S. State Department announced May 29 that it had signed an agreement to reschedule $485 million of Russian debt to the United States.

This includes a $155 million payment due in July.

"Despite the urging of the administration and Congress to stop this war in Chechyna, the Russian government continues this brutal military campaign," Helms wrote.

Helms also protested what he said was Russia's continuing support of the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He cited a $150 million loan to Serbia last month.

"If the government of Russia has the financial capacity to conduct its brutal assault of Chechnya and to finance the Milosevic regime, it certainly has the financial capacity to meet its existing debt obligations," Helms wrote.

"Rescheduling Russia's international debt will only reduce the political and economic pressure that should be directed against the Kremlin."