Ukraine eyes September debt repayment freeze

Ukraine's finance ministry warned on Thursday it could declare a technical default in two months should its lenders fail to accept less stringent repayment terms and a possible partial debt write-off.

Kiev: Ukraine's finance ministry warned on Thursday it could declare a technical default in two months should its lenders fail to accept less stringent repayment terms and a possible partial debt write-off.

The war-shattered country's words of caution came on the eve of a crucial Washington meeting at which the International Monetary Fund is expected to back the release of a new payment that would keep Ukraine's USD 40-billion (37-billion-euro) global rescue package live.

But that money includes USD 15.3 billion in existing debt Ukraine must restructure over the course of the four-year deal.

Franklin Templeton and three other US financial titans who own about two-thirds of this sum have balked at Kiev's request to accept a 40-percent cut to the value of their original investment in the former Soviet state.

Negotiations have been fraught with tensions and Kiev now faces a September 23 deadline to return $500 million and make smaller interest payments on debt issued by a Russian-backed president who was ousted by street protests last year.

Deputy Finance Minister Artem Shevalev said Kiev would have a tough time explaining in negotiations why it was making the September principal payment but hoping to avoid covering others that mature by the end of the year.

"Making the coupon payment is one thing. It shows financial discipline," news agencies quoted Shevalev as saying.

"But after paying the body of the bond, it will be very hard to talk to the other creditors -- why we decide to pay someone in September and not someone else later on."

Ukraine's biggest worry is a USD 3-billion Eurobond that Russia purchased from the deposed government in the wake of its 2013 decision to bow to Kremlin pressure and reject an EU association pact.

Moscow has refused to join the debt negotiations and demands the full amount back by the December 20 deadline.

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