Kudrin Eyes Belarus Currency Swap

MINSK -- Russia may agree on a currency swap with Belarus to boost trade and investment during the economic crisis after turning down a request for a 100 billion ruble ($3 billion) loan, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Friday.

China and Belarus on March 11 agreed on a currency swap worth $3 billion. The three-year accord is worth 20 billion yuan, or 8 trillion Belarussian rubles.

"I wish Belarus good luck with its currency swap agreement with China," Kudrin told reporters in Minsk. "As for Russia, we still need to study this mechanism, but it's not out of the question."

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko failed to win approval for the $3 billion loan from President Dmitry Medvedev during talks outside Moscow on Thursday, Kommersant reported. The two presidents went skiing near Sochi on Saturday.

Russia received a request for the loan in December after agreeing to provide a $2 billion loan a month earlier. Deputy Finance Minister Dmitry Pankin said in January that Russia was "not even considering" the new request.

Kudrin said Russia would provide the final $500 million of the $2 billion loan soon, probably after the Russian budget is approved by the State Duma.

Kudrin said Russia and Belarus have been talking about "using our national currencies for settling accounts," and that an April deadline had been set for proposals on this issue.

Asked about long-standing plans for a common currency in Russia and Belarus, Kudrin said this is a "very delicate matter."



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