Russia announces release of Belarus bailout
Russia on Tuesday announced the release of the first $800 million tranche of a bailout loan to Belarus aimed at helping its neighbour recover from its worst economic crisis since the Soviet era.
Moscow also criticised a new wave of sanctions slapped on the republic by the Europe's foreign ministers on Monday in protest over a crackdown on the opposition that followed disputed presidential elections last year.
A small group of former Soviet republics headed by Russia agreed to release a $3 billion loan to Belarus over three years under strict conditions that include its adoption of a wholesale privatisation programme.
Belarus has thus far failed to put up its state firms for sale. The loan's release was imperilled further by strongman President Alexander Lukashenko's vow to shut down Russian media outlets operating in Belarus.
But Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told news agencies that "Belarus fulfilled all the formal obligations (on Monday) evening" and was issued the first payment on Tuesday.
© 2011 AFP