By Alexei Anishchuk
SOCHI, Russia Feb 4 Russia is considering
extending the maturity of a 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion)
loan to help Cyprus manage its debt crisis rather than offering
a new loan, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Monday.
Cyprus, hit by its exposure to Greece and shut out of
international financial markets for nearly two years, asked
Russia last month to extend the 5-year loan that Moscow provided
Nicosia in 2011.
The island, part of the euro zone, is seeking a bailout from
the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Last year it
also asked Russia for a new five billion euro loan.
"We are more looking into the second option (extension),"
Siluanov told journalists.
"We are ready for softening (of the terms)... Restructuring
of the debt is possible and we'll see about the rates."
He also reiterated Moscow's position that the island will
still need additional financial aid from Europe.
"Our concessions will not solve the problem of Cyprus,"
Last week, Cypriot Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly said he
expected Russia to extend the maturity of the existing loan to
2022 from 2016.
A draft memorandum of understanding between Cyprus and the
EU and IMF says the island could need up to 10 billion euros to
recapitalise its banks, undermined by an EU-sanctioned writedown
of Greek government debt in early 2012.
In addition, the government needs up to 7.5 billion euros for
its own budget. The banking figure could change pending the
results of an asset quality review, now underway.
Some euro zone member states, notably Germany, have
expressed unease at the island's close business ties with
Russia, and questioned its commitment to fighting money
laundering. Cyprus says it has all the safeguards in place.
($1 = 0.7301 euros)
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing
by Maya Dyakina/Ruth pitchford)