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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia and Ukraine Sparring Over Soviet-Era Assets, Debt

The clearing of Russia's $22 billion debt to the Paris Club has reopened another dispute: Russia's squabble with Ukraine over the division of Soviet-era assets.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said in televised comments Saturday that paying back the debt ahead of schedule would allow Russia to claim all of the former Soviet Union's assets abroad, including in Ukraine.

On Monday, officials in Kiev countered that Ukraine would only hold talks with Russia if Moscow specified which assets it had in mind.

In the 1990s, the former Soviet republics agreed to transfer all their Soviet-era property abroad to Russia, which in return pledged to repay the republics' Soviet-era debt. The Ukrainian parliament has not ratified the agreement. Last week Russia signed an agreement with the Paris Club to pay about $22 billion to settle its debt to the club ahead of schedule.

Ukraine is the only former Soviet republic that has so far refused to acknowledge Russia's claim to former Soviet assets in return for Russia paying off the Soviet Union's debts.

Vasyl Filipchuk, a spokesman for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, said Moscow had been keeping Kiev in the dark about Ukraine's debt and assets.

"We don't have exact information" about Soviet balance sheets, Filipchuk said by telephone from Kiev.

Although Ukraine does not have any official data, local experts estimate that Ukraine's assets "by far outweigh" its debt, Filipchuk said, adding that Ukraine was entitled to 17 percent of the former Soviet assets.

Assets under dispute include not only former Soviet property abroad, but also Russia's diamond fund and some foreign currency assets.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied Ukraine's claims. Officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry in Moscow said they were unable to immediately comment on the issue.