Belarus, Ukraine and Venezuela are the countries that owe Russia the most through government loans, according to an estimate by RBC based on open information.
Traditionally, Russia does not disclose information about loans issued to other governments. Their existence becomes known if Russia signs an international agreement which is later ratified by the State Duma. In such cases, Russian MPs talk about the loans, or the borrowing state discloses information about them.
According to RBC, Belarus owes Russia the most – $7.55 billion as at June 1, 2019. The Belarusian Finance Ministry has confirmed this information.
Ukraine holds second place, owing Russia $3.7 billion. Of this debt, $3.07 billion is from eurobonds that Russia’s National Wealth Fund purchased from the Yanukovych administration in December 2013. At the end of 2015, Ukraine defaulted on the loan, refusing to repay the principal or the final coupon, after which Russia filed a lawsuit against Ukraine in England. Ukraine’s new government does not recognize this debt, recognizing only $0.61 billion outstanding from a loan taken out in the early 1990s.
Venezuela is Russia’s biggest debtor outside of post-Soviet space. According to the Russian Finance Ministry, Venezuela’s principal debt is $3.15 billion, which must be repaid in 2027. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in July that Caracas’s debt to Moscow had reached $3.5 billion.
Russia’s other major debtors are Cuba ($3.2 billion), Bangladesh ($2 billion), and Cyprus ($1.8 billion). On May 1, 2019, the Russian Finance Ministry estimated that it is owed a total of $39.4 billion through government loans, of which $15.8 billion is owed by countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States. More than $5 billion of the total debt is a restructuring of debt that arose during the Soviet period.