Westerners Blocked Funds, Says Soviet Payments Bank

MOSCOW - The Soviet Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs, the agency responsible for serving the country's debt, said it faced problems because of Western panic over the Soviet political turmoil.

A day after issuing a statement assuring creditors that it was maintaining debt repayments, Vneshekonombank said foreign financial institutions were jeopardizing its finances.

"Tanks or no tanks, we have not stopped our operations or declared any moratorium," said Vneshekonombank spokesman Vladimir Sterlikov.

He repeated allegations that some Western banks were blocking payments into the Soviet bank. "The banks themselves know who is responsible," he said.

Bank's Reputation Good

The Soviet Union has a foreign debt of about $60 billion, about half of which is owed to commercial banks. Interest payments due this year have been put at about $12 billion.

Vneshekonombank has a reputation as a prompt and reliable payer. But the country's overall creditworthiness has already suffered because of months of political and economic chaos and a problem with nonpayment of commercial debt.

The removal of President Mikhail Gorbachev by a group of hardline Communists had alarmed foreign bankers and investors, who had been growing more optimistic about the Soviet Union.

Mr. Sterlikov stressed that the bank was continuing to fulfill its obligations.

Separation from Politics

"We try to distance ourselves from political activities," he said.

As to blocked payments, Mr. Sterlikov said: "What can we do about it? We cannot stand by them with machine guns and force them to meet their obligations." The banker said the problem was a misunderstanding of Vneshekonombank, which he said functions as a commercial bank in addition to servicing state debt.

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