Yves Logghe, Associated Press
BRUSSELS — Russian officials indicated Thursday that their country may offer more than the $10 billion it already has promised the International Monetary Fund to help support the struggling euro currency.
Speaking at a news conference with EU President Herman van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: "We are ready to invest the necessary financial means to back the EU and the eurozone. We are ready to consider other measures of support."
He didn't elaborate, but Russian officials have said their country would offer up to $10 billion to the IMF to help support the euro. And Arkady Dvorkovich, a Medvedev economic adviser, indicated Thursday the total may be greater because Russia has a big economic stake in the EU, where a debt crisis is dragging down economies and the 17-nation eurozone.
"We are ready to contribute our part via the IMF. We are committed to do it. Ten billion dollars is the minimum commitment," Dvorkovich told journalists reporting from the 28th EU-Russia summit in Brussels, where other major issues included visa liberalization and alleged fraud during Russia's parliamentary election last week.
Last week, EU governments said they would give the IMF euro200 million ($264 billion), which in turn could help out the eurozone. The fund also expects other nations to participate in the rescue fund.
Medvedev said it is in Russia's interest to assist its largest trade partner overcome the economic crisis.
Russia exports more to the EU than to any other market, and Russia is the EU's third-largest trading partner. Total trade amounts to €245 billion ($318 billion). Russia also is the EU's most important source of energy imports, accounting for nearly a quarter of its natural gas consumption and 30 percent of its oil.
Medvedev said that 41 percent of his country's foreign currency reserves are denominated in euros.
"Russia is interested in the EU's preservation as a powerful economic and political force," Medvedev said. "We have advantageous ties, and for us united Europe is very important."
Van Rompuy, meanwhile, acknowledged that Russia and the EU "are strongly interdependent." Van Rompuy was hosting Medvedev for the twice-yearly meeting.
The summit came as the World Trade Organization was set to approve Russia's long-delayed membership on Friday. Russia — the largest economy still outside the WTO — has been trying to join for 18 years. A Swiss-brokered deal with Georgia last month cleared the last major hurdle for Russia.
Medvedev thanked the EU for its support of Russia's candidacy, saying: "It will give a strong impulse to our cooperation."
Van Rompuy said: "Russian WTO accession is a major achievement (which) opens a myriad of possibilities for trade and growth."
Medvedev dismissed complaints about the conduct of Russia's Dec. 4 legislative elections. On Wednesday, European Parliament speaker Jerzy Buzek called for new free-and-fair elections and a probe into reports of fraud and intimidation at Russian polling stations.
"It means nothing to me," Medvedev said.
The EU has avoided overt criticism of the elections, which have sparked massive anti-government protests in Moscow and other Russian cities.
After years of negotiations, the two sides also launched a set of joint steps that will lead to visa-free travel for Russian citizens — a long-standing goal in relations. The measures include the introduction of biometric passports, as well as improved border management to combat transnational crime, terrorism and corruption.
Officials said Syria and Iran were also discussed. Russia has blocked a bid by the United States and EU nations to impose sanctions against Syria, where a government crackdown on dissidents has killed thousands of people. Russia opposes any further moves against Iran, whose nuclear program worries the West.
Slobodan Lekic can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/slekich
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