Russia cuts $1 billion from state budget on Venezuela concerns: document

(This story corrects first paragraph to show Audit Chamber is not a Russian parliamentary committee. Corrects paragraph 6 to show that 2016 protocol was not part of the Audit Chamber report)

MOSCOW/CARACAS (Reuters) - Russia has slashed projected revenue by nearly $1 billion to reflect expectations that Venezuela may not make timely payments on bilateral loans, according to a document released by Russia’s Audit Chamber on Tuesday.

The OPEC member over the years borrowed heavily from political allies including Russia and China, but is now struggling to pay back creditors including bondholders on Wall Street as its socialist economy collapses.

The issue is likely to draw attention in Washington, where lawmakers have questioned Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA’s [PDVSA.UL] use of a portion of its shares in U.S. subsidiary Citgo as collateral for a loan from Russia because this could leave Moscow with indirect control over U.S. energy infrastructure.

Russia’s Audit Chamber, in a revision to the Russian state budgets for 2017-19, said Venezuela had not fulfilled its obligations under the Russia-Venezuela intergovernmental protocol from September 2016. That agreement was an amendment to a Russian loan granted in December 2011.

The Audit Chamber is responsible for checking domestic state spending, and has published its review on the proposed changes to the state budget for 2017 and further into 2018-19.

Venezuela owed Russia $2.84 billion as of September of that year, including missed payments on the debt and interest, according to the 2016 protocol, which was published separately earlier.

Details of the loans and the consequences for not paying them on time were not immediately evident.

Venezuela’s Oil Ministry and PDVSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia’s oil major Rosneft has lent its Venezuelan counterpart PDVSA between $4 billion and $5 billion in recent years, according to Reuters calculations. The firm has been gaining ground in Venezuela as the cash-strapped leftist government scrambles for cash.

In its most recent quarterly financial statement, Rosneft confirmed having provided $1.49 billion to PDVSA in 2016, secured by oil supply contracts. Rosneft’s CEO, Igor Sechin, in May confirmed that the company received Citgo collateral.

PDVSA has also fallen months behind on shipments of crude and fuels under oil-for-loan deals with Russia, as well as China, according to internal company documents seen by Reuters.

Rosneft will get 70,000 barrels per day of Venezuelan oil this year under the most recent loan deal, Venezuela’s oil minister Nelson Martinez said earlier this month, without providing further details on the type or time frame of the loan.

Reporting by Katya Golubkova, additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Andrew Hay