Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

ORT Awaits Decision On Overdue Payment

No decision has been made on whether the nation's No. 1 television channel, ORT, may soon have to make payment on an overdue $100 million credit it owes to the bank, said Andrei Kostin, president of Vneshekonombank, Monday.

"The loan came due in January this year. What to do next is still an object of discussion," Kostin told reporters at a news conference Monday, Interfax reported. "The decision will be made by ORT shareholders. It's hardly likely that the government wants to bankrupt the channel."

Kostin's statements come just weeks after he suggested in an interview with Vedomosti that the bank could grant another loan worth $85 million to the cash-strapped TV channel at the government's request. He said then it was understood that the $100 million loan would not be called due. A spokeswoman for the bank has also said the government had already decided to extend the loan. Now Kostin has thrown those statements into doubt.

The new uncertainty around the loan comes just weeks after tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who is largely seen to control the channel, said he was ready to return his 49 percent stake in the company to the state, which holds the remaining 51 percent.

Kostin said Monday the bank had played no part in the decision to extend the credit to ORT but had acted as a middleman in supplying the funds in late 1998 on the order of former President Boris Yeltsin and the government. He said that meant the bank would not carry any risk should the loan not be returned.

After Berezovsky got his daughter and anchorman Sergei Dorenko elected to the board of directors last month, Konstantin Ernst, ORT general director, said ORT would send the government a letter demanding it start funding the channel.