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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

$572M in Poor-Nation Debt Canceled

Russia is writing off $572 million owed by the world's most heavily indebted poor countries through a bilateral debt relief program, top presidential aide Andrei Illarionov was quoted as saying Wednesday.

President Vladimir Putin joined the Group of Seven leading industrial nations — the United States, Britain, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and France — last weekend in pledging to to write off debt owed by the 23 countries involved in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program, which was initiated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

HIPC countries are classified as those that have a per capita gross domestic product of less than $900 and a debt load greater than 200 percent of GDP.

To qualify for relief, the countries must explain how they would use the writeoff.

Russia first agreed to join the HIPC initiative when it was formed in 1996, Illarionov said Monday, Interfax reported.

"The difference between 2001 and 1996 is that now we can say which … of the less developed countries have fulfilled the requirements formulated in 1996 and 1999," Illarionov said.

Of the 23 countries that are on the HIPC list, 19 are in Africa and two each are in Central and South America.

In all, Russia and other Paris Club member nations wrote off $6.5 billion under the HIPC initiative, Illarionov said.

The Soviet Union heavily subsidized its allies, many of which are developing countries that still owe huge debts to Moscow and may not be able to pay for years.

In May, Ethiopia said that Moscow had canceled $4.8 billion of debt run up by its former Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who was once one of the former Soviet Union's staunchest allies in Africa.

Russia's generosity has put it in fourth place among the G-8 for volume of debt written off and first place for debt written off as a percent of GDP (0.3 percent).

Russia itself owes $48 billion to the Paris Club group of creditor nations — a third of its total foreign debt of about $151 billion.