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Russia: Minister To Ask IMF For New Loan Terms

Moscow, 20 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov is due to meet later today with the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission to Moscow, Jorge Marquez Ruarte. Interfax news agency cites Maslyukov as saying that he would be discussing possible new terms for Russia to repay its loans from the IMF. Russia is scheduled to pay back $4.6 billion next year.

IMF loans have been on hold since August when the government defaulted on its domestic debt and devalued the ruble. The IMF has been insisting that it will not release any more money until the government comes up with a comprehensive anti-crisis plan.

The government reached a tentative agreement today with a group of foreign creditors holding Russian Treasury bills and bonds. In a joint statement, the Russian Finance Ministry and Deutsche Bank announced that they had agreed in principle on repayment of the government's debt. The Rusian government owes around $10 billion to foreign banks and Russian banks owe around $6 billion.

Maslyukov also warned today that Russia is in danger of becoming an oil importer after years of being one of the world's largest oil producers. He said oil production has been falling for the last ten years and urgent action was needed to reverse the decline. Oil is one of the country's major hard currency export items.

In other news, the Kremlin today denied that Russian President Boris Yeltsin is involved in a scandal surrounding Russia's main state television station, ORT.

Yeltsin's former bodyguard Alexander Korzhakov said earlier today that he had been instructed by Russian financial tycoon Boris Berezovsky to transfer more than a quarter of ORT shares to Yeltsin in 1994. Communist Duma deputy Viktor Ilyukhin on Wednesday called the alleged transfer a bribe.

But Yeltsin's spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin denied the charges today. Yakushkin said that Yeltsin, "has no shares, and does not control any shares."

The accusations and counter accusations come amid reports today that ORT's noon news program lasted only three minutes today because of a row with creditors that led to temporary seizure of its film crew vehicles.