Russia and Venezuela agree debt deal

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Russia has agreed to restructure $3.15bn (£2.4bn) in debt owed by Venezuela, providing breathing space to the cash-strapped country.

The deal, announced on Wednesday, allows Venezuela to make "minimal" repayments on its Russian obligations over the next six years.

It comes a day after credit ratings agencies raised alarm after Venezuela missed recent debt interest payments.

Venezuela owes an estimated $140bn to foreign creditors.

The government hosted a meeting in Caracas earlier this week to discuss restructuring, but creditors who attended the meeting told journalists that it ended without the government making any concrete proposals.

Venezuelan officials said the government had started transferring $200m in interest payments and would continue to meet its obligations.

"Venezuela is moving forward towards recomposing its external debt in benefit of its people" Venezuela's Finance Minister Simon Zerpa said on Wednesday as he announced the deal with Russia.

Confidence from China

Russia and China are among the main allies of Venezuela, which has historically relied on its oil wealth to buoy its economy and finance its government.

But a decline in oil prices has sent the country into economic and political crisis.

The US and European Union have imposed sanctions, citing repressive policies by the government.

The Russian Finance Ministry said the deal announced Wednesday would allow Venezuela to release funds for economic development and improve its ability to repay all creditors.

Russia previously agreed to restructure Venezuela's debt in 2014. This deal expects full repayment in 10 years.

Separately, China also expressed confidence in Venezuela's financial situation.

"We believe that the Venezuelan government and people are capable of properly handling their debt issues," the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at a press conference.

"At present, the financing cooperation between China and Venezuela is running as usual."

Venezuela has borrowed billions of dollars from Russia and China over the years, primarily through oil-for-loan deals.

Analysis: Daniel Gallas, BBC South America correspondent

The world watches Venezuela without quite knowing what to make of its recent missed payment deadlines.

Is this the beginning of the world's largest debt default? Or is it just a minor setback for a country in financial trouble?

Venezuela says it wants to restructure its massive debt.

But its failure to present a credible plan in a meeting with investors on Monday suggests President Nicolas Maduro's only real strategy is to buy more time.

Wednesday's new deal with the Russians may be crucial to honour upcoming payments.

But how long can Venezuela afford to keep buying just time - before it actually goes bankrupt?

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