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    RUSSIA PAID OFF ITS DEBT TO IMF AHEAD OF SCHEDULE

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    MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has paid off the entire amount of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ahead of schedule, announced Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin during a press conference at RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

    "In accordance with a directive of the Russian government we paid off Russian foreign debt to the IMF in the amount of $3.3 billion. The sum has been transferred and we are no longer IMF debtors," he said

    "This clearance of the debt is highly beneficial for Russia. It will allow us to save $204 million in interest that we do not have to pay. Starting in 2008, we will use these funds for other purposes, including in the sphere of socio-economic policy," Mr. Kudrin emphasized.

    On January 29, the Russian Cabinet adopted a decision to pay off Russia's debt to the IMF in the amount of 2.19 billion special drawing rights (SDR), equivalent of $3.33 billion.

    The Russian government used the resources from the Stabilization fund accumulated in excess of 500 billion rubles, the sum established as a base for the fund, in accordance with the law on the 2005 state budget.

    By January 1, 2005, the overall amount of the debt constituted $3.5 billion. In January, Russia made three payments to the IMF in the consolidated amount of about $133.7 million and 9.3 million Euro.

    Previously, it was planned to pay off about $1.4 billion this year as part of the debt servicing. Last year, Russia paid more than $1.7 billion for the same purposes.

    Earlier, Russian finance ministry's officials voiced the possibility of clearing the entire amount of the debt to the IMF ahead of schedule if Russia had enough available funds. They also mentioned that Russia conducted preliminary talks with the IMF leadership on the issue.

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