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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Writes Off $10Bln Afghan Debt

Russia wrote off more than $10 billion of Afghan debt, mainly from Soviet weapons purchases, and signed a trade accord to boost ties.

Afghanistan's remaining debt to Russia, about $730 million, will be paid back over 23 years, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Monday after meeting with his Afghan counterpart, Anwar-Ul-Haq Ahadi, in Moscow.

Afghanistan, which accumulated debt from the 1960s until 1991 before the collapse of the Soviet Union, plans to invite Russian companies to help rebuild its economy. Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and left a decade later after failing to stabilize the country. The fundamentalist Taliban militia took over the country in 1996. They, in turn, were driven out of power by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001.

"We are not going to spend much time on what happened in the past," Ahadi told reporters after the signing ceremony. "We would like greater Russian participation from the private sector as well as the official sector in Afghan development."

Kudrin said Russia could help Afghanistan in rebuilding its transport infrastructure, reviving industries, and by supplying equipment and mining natural resources "through transparent competition" with other companies.

Ahadi said Technopromexport, a state-run maker of power plant equipment, won a $30 million order to upgrade a power station in Afghanistan. A Russian company is competing against four other companies to develop a copper deposit south of Kabul.

Russia will also provide "most of the 186 aircraft," including helicopters and transport planes, the Afghan air force will receive in two years as they are "more economical," Ahadi said. The United States will finance the purchase.

Russian companies are already supplying hundreds of vehicles for Afghan government agencies, helping build power stations and roll out Internet networks.

The countries' trade volume was $90 million last year, Kudrin said.