Washington, 29 July 1999 (RFE/RL) - The executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a 17-month, $4.5 billion loan for Russia yesterday. An IMF spokeswoman said in Washington that $640 million is to be made available immediately. However, the money will not actually reach Russia, but will be paid directly to an account at the IMF that will be used to service debts Russia already owes the IMF. The loan, critically needed by Russia to avoid a default on its external debt, marks the resumption of IMF lending which was suspended after last August, when Moscow devalued the ruble and defaulted on some debts. The IMF's approval comes ahead of talks today in Paris between Russia and creditor nations on restructuring up to $10 billion of Soviet-era debt due to mature in the short term.