Russia to join China-led bank AIIB: official

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia is to sign up to the Chinese-led development bank AIIB, first deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov said Saturday at an international forum in China, cited by Russian news agencies.

"I'd like to inform you that Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken the decision that Russia will participate in the capital of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)," Shuvalov said at China's Boao Forum, quoted by RIA Novosti state news agency.

The Beijing-backed AIIB, unveiled in October, is a multinational lender that the United States perceives as a threat to the Washington-led World Bank.

It has proved highly successful with countries that are US allies, however, with Britain, Germany, France, Italy and this week South Korea all saying they intend to join the US$50 billion (S$68.3 billion) bank.

Russia has sought to align itself more closely with China in recent years and these efforts have intensified amid a freeze in relations with the Western powers, which have imposed harsh economic sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine conflict.

"We are glad to have the opportunity to build up cooperation in the format of China and the Eurasian Economic Union," Shuvalov said, referring to a free trade union championed by Putin made up of Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus, which came into force in January.

"We in Russia are sure that joint work in developing Eurasian partnership and the Silk Route economic belt will create further opportunities for the development of the countries of the Eurasian Union and China," he said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said this month that "practical cooperation between China and Russia is based on mutual need" and has "enormous internal impetus and room for expansion."

China is hungry for Russia's vast hydrocarbon resources, while Western sanctions have made seeking stable markets an urgent need for Putin, whose economy has been hit hard by the fall in prices for oil, a major source of revenue.

Both countries are permanent members of the UN Security Council, where they have in the past jointly used their veto power against Western-backed moves such as in the civil war in Syria.

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