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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Calls For Speedy Repayment

President Vladimir Putin called Friday for a swift settlement of Russia's foreign debt, which stood at $115 billion at the start of the year.

In a meeting with Putin, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said as much as $7 billion was sucked out of state coffers each year to service the debt. Average interest rates on the loans are between 7 percent and 13 percent, three to four times higher than their level in other industrialized nations.

"Part of this debt was taken on when Russia fell on hard times -- the last loan was in 1997 -- and part of it was inherited from the USSR," Kudrin told Putin in televised remarks.

Putin responded that it is economically expedient to eliminate the debt as quickly as possible.

"Settling the debt and solving the social issues are different goals, but I believe the Cabinet could meet both," he said.

Russia struggled in the 1990s to repay massive debts to the IMF and other foreign lenders, but its economy has grown strongly for five years under Putin, largely thanks to high world oil prices -- currently hovering around $47 per barrel.

Kudrin said earlier this month that Russia had repaid nearly $3.3 billion in International Monetary Fund loans early, saving the country some $200 million in interest payments.

The government is also reported to be angling to pay down some $10 billion of the $40 billion that it owes to the Paris Club of creditor nations.