Moscow is making the release of the second tranche of a loan for Ukraine that was agreed in December conditional on the country's payment of arrears for Russian natural gas, according to the Russian finance minister.

"We expect the Ukrainian side to fulfill its commitments of payment for the gas. After all, it's a pretty handsome sum of money. Payments were due to start in January, but they haven't been gone ahead yet," Anton Siluanov told reporters.

He explained he was referring to a restructured debt with the payment deadline of January 25.

He said Russia had assured Ukraine it would provide the latter with what it had promised to, but that "we would like the commitments that have been made on the Ukrainian side to be met without delay too."

"We didn't link our tranches to the fulfillment of the commitments concerning payments for gas [under an agreement] between Naftogaz and Gazprom, but, nevertheless, they are state organizations, and naturally we always make agreements to meet our commitments both at interstate level and between state companies," Siluanov said.

"Payments for this year, as far as I know, are going according to schedule," he said.

Under an agreement of December last year, Russia pledged to slash its gas price for Ukraine and lend it $15 billion. Late in January, acting Ukrainian prime minister Serhiy Arbuzov said: "We have already received the first tranche of $3 billion and expect to receive the second tranche of $2 billion shortly."

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